Interest growing in buckwheat as farmers explore options

Looking for alternatives Low-input crop drawing greater interest among Manitoba farmers as canola prices drop

Mike Durand, a special crops buyer in Manitoba, knows what to expect when canola prices fall.

He says his phone will ring more frequently with inquiries from farmers who are looking to grow something other than canola.

This winter, many of those growers have called to talk about buckwheat.

“I’ve had some farmers tell me, ‘I’m thinking of cancelling my canola seed but I don’t know what to switch to,’ ” said Durand, sales and purchasing manager at Nestibo Agra, a sunflower and special crops processor in Deloraine.

“I’ve had quite a few more calls on buckwheat this year.”

Buckwheat acres in Manitoba exceeded 10,000 acres in 2012, which boosted industry optimism after several years of being mired in the 4,000 to 5,000 acre range.

However, the 2012 drought stifled buckwheat yields, with many fields producing less than 20 bushel per acre.

The poor yields discouraged casual growers, and buckwheat acres fell back to typical levels last year.

However, prices of $10 to $11 per bu. have piqued growers’ interest, said Durand’s brother, Marc, who farms in Notre Dame des Lourdes, Man.

“It’s a low input crop and the market is holding out compared to some of the other commodities,” said Marc, who grows buckwheat every year.

“Demand is still there, supply is awfully low, also.”

Another Manitoba buckwheat processor said he is also receiving more producer inquiries this winter, including calls from potential growers in Saskatchewan.

Mike Durand said buckwheat is profitable at yields of 20 to 25 bu. per acre.

Although his phone continues to ring, he said he has contracted sufficient buckwheat acres for this year.

“I have my regular growers and they are quite good at growing buckwheat. They’ll grow everything I need for this coming year,” he said.

“Basically, I open with a contract one day and it’s filled the same day.”

Canola, wheat and other large acreage crops remain tied up in the grain transportation system this winter, which Mike Durand said might endear farmers to a special crop like buckwheat, which is typically shipped by container.

“I think we’re going to see more special crops, on the whole, because of that.”

Marc said it’s great that farmers are considering buckwheat again, but canola growers might go with another option this spring.

“Soybeans is still the Cinderella crop right now.”

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