Highlights of strong year for Canadian export crops

The 2015-16 crop year is over, bringing to an end another season of robust exports.

It will be another month or so before Statistics Canada publishes its July data, allowing for an official tally, but the latest forecast from Agriculture Canada of total grain, oilseed and pulse crop exports in 2015-16 is 48.26 million tonnes.

The previous year marked the record for total exports, at 48.89 million tonnes.

And 2013-14, for all its troubles with grain transportation, holds the title of second best with 48.52 million tonnes.

It wasn’t that long ago that exports were less than 40 million tonnes.

Broadly speaking, the year that just ended saw reduced exports of wheat, durum, barley and flax compared to the year before, but those were partly offset by in-creased exports of canola. Exports of the oilseed will post a record high.

The Canadian Grain Commission maintains a monthly record of bulk crop exports. It produced a report in June and so is timelier than Statistics Canada’s tally, which includes exports in containers but lags behind, with May as the most recent report.

The CGC reports are not so good for keeping track of pulses because container shipping is still important in that area, but in the major grains, the CGC reports give a good window into export activity.

The CGC’s June report shows that China was again Canada’s largest canola importer by a wide margin, accounting for almost 39 percent of the 9.35 million tonnes shipped to the end of June.

China had imported 3.54 million tonnes of Canadian canola, slightly less than the year before.

Japan is the second largest importer, taking 2.03 million tonnes, slightly more than the year before.

Combined, these two Asian importers took almost the exact same amount as the year before.

No. 3 importer, Mexico, also had nearly steady imports at 1.31 million tonnes.

So what countries took more to push canola exports to a record?

Pakistan, which suffered consecutive poor monsoons, more than doubled its imports to 890,300 tonnes, and its neighbour, Bangladesh, took 210,500 compared to nothing the year before.

The United Arab Emirates, which buys canola to process and then re-export, increased its take by more than 50 percent to 682,500 tonnes.

The European Union last year had a disappointing rapeseed harvest, forcing it to import more. Over 11 months, European countries have imported 432,000 tonnes, up from just 76,500 tonnes in the same period the year before.

Canada’s wheat market is much more diverse with 71 customers compared to 14 for canola.

Some customers bought less and some more but it looks like total wheat exports will be down by a million tonnes or more from last year.

To the end of June, they stood at slightly more than 15 million tonnes, according to the CGC numbers.

The biggest customer was Japan, taking 1.54 million tonnes, or slightly more than 10 percent of the total.

The No. 2 customer was Indonesia at 1.39 million tonnes followed by Bangladesh at 1.34 million and Peru at 1.06 million.

China, which staggers under the weight of an expected 112.5 million tonnes of surplus wheat at the end of 2016-17, does not buy much wheat on the international market.

But it did buy 878,600 tonnes from Canada so far this year. That beats the 870,100 tonnes we sold to the United States.

Also of note is Saudi Arabia. A state-owned Saudi company owns more than 50 percent of G3 Canada, the grain company that evolved from the wrap up of the Canadian Wheat Board. However, the linkage did not generate wheat sales this year.

The Saudis imported no Canadian wheat or durum so far this year, compared with 624,800 tonnes last year.

In durum, Canada had a slow start to the export year and was never able to catch up, with 4.04 million tonnes shipped to the end of June, down about nine percent behind the same point last year.

The biggest buyer, as usual, was Italy, at 1.11 million tonnes, taking more than a quarter of all exports.

North African countries were also key buyers with Algeria at 919,900 tonnes, Morocco at 566,100 tonnes and Tunisia at 283,100 in the first 11 months.

With a potential bumper crop developing, Canada will need another year of exceptional exports but there will be challenges as the summer of 2016 is shaping up as an excellent one for crops almost everywhere in the world.

Competition will be fierce.

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