Harvest 2014: making the best of a bad situation

There’s no magic wand for making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but that’s what many producers will try to do as they deal with the myriad of quality issues plaguing this year’s crop.

The price range on some crops has moved up dramatically on all grades. Mid-quality product is now worth more than what top quality was worth in August.

For example, bids of $8 a bushel have been reported for No. 3 durum. That’s a great price, but there’s still a huge incentive to get the best grade possible. Top quality durum with good protein is fetching more than $12 a bu. in some markets.

Some analysts are pointing at a huge price disparity between bids in Western Canada and what durum is worth in the United States.

However, farmers who know their quality and shop around can narrow the price gap dramatically. Don’t rely entirely on posted prices.

On red lentils, an X3 is worth 24 cents a pound or more. That too is a great price, but top quality product is being sold for 30 cents.

The price spread is even greater on large green lentils, where top quality product has flirted with 40 cents a lb.

Here’s something to note about crop insurance: quality is factored into the yield equation. You could be in a claim situation if your yield is close to the crop insurance yield guarantee but your quality is low.

If you make a claim, crop insurance is going to grade the sample to make the quality calculation. If you’ve already sold the product, they’ll go with whatever grade you received from the buyer.

You may have found a buyer who gave you an X3 for your lentils, while technically they were a No. 3. This could cost you money on a crop insurance claim.

We spent most of the last year be-moaning poor grain movement and the large carryover from the 2013 crop, but that carryover is working well now for many producers.

Good quality product from last year gives you more negotiating power for the lower quality produced this year.

With malting barley, new crop supplies are so tight that old crop barley that didn’t quite make malting has a good opportunity of making the grade this year.

In many regions, malting barley is worth almost twice as much as feed barley. It’s amazing how malting standards drop when good quality is in short supply.

Wheat with high vomitoxin levels may be the biggest challenge of all. Blending opportunities become limited when such a large percentage of the crop is affected.

Discounted feed wheat prices are not attractive and are not likely to improve any time soon.

Some wheat may be virtually un-marketable and will need to be stored until market dynamics change. This has the potential to become a major problem.

The importance of sizing complicates the quality assessment and marketing of kabuli chickpea. The market has been thinly traded, but nine and 9.5 millimetre seed is worth a great deal more than eight and seven mm.

Each of the size categories within the sample may have slightly different degrading factors, whether it is sprouting, mildew or disease.

Assessing how much upgrading can be accomplished with cleaning, gravity tables and colour sorting is almost as much art as science.

Patience and persistence will be important for extracting maximum value from this year’s crop.

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