Canaryseed outlook depends on late harvest success

If farmers manage to harvest their canaryseed crops there should be plenty of supply, but that’s a big if, says an analyst.

Saskatchewan Agriculture reports that half of the crop was still in fields as of Oct. 24.

Canaryseed and flax are typically the last crops harvested, so it is not unusual for farmers to be combining them in late fall.

What is unusual this year is that growers still have a lot of canola, wheat, durum and other crops left.

“It’s getting late enough now that I think it’s starting to get concerning,” said Chuck Penner, analyst with LeftField Commodity Research.

“So that’s why (canaryseed) bids have popped a couple of cents now from some buyers anyway.”

Agriculture Canada believes growers could harvest 130,000 tonnes of canaryseed if the entire crop is harvested.

Penner believes it could be 20,000 to 40,000 tonnes more than that.

He said Statistics Canada has a long history of underestimating canaryseed yields. Every year the agency understates the size of the crop by about 30,000 tonnes.

That is why he does not believe Agriculture Canada’s estimate of 5,000 tonnes of carryout from the 2015-16 crop.

“It can’t be 5,000 tonnes just based on the way prices have behaved,” said Penner.

“We haven’t had an accurate reading on canaryseed supplies for probably about three years now because Statistics Canada doesn’t ask that question anymore in their stocks estimate.”

Prices have been relatively flat the last three years, hovering near 20 to 27 cents per pound, which indicates that ending stocks are nowhere near as low as Agriculture Canada’s estimate.

But if half of the crop remains unharvested until spring, canaryseed supplies could get tight over the winter, said Penner.

There were good harvesting conditions in the forecast as of Nov. 7 but it all depends on what crop farmers want to get in the bin first. Canaryseed might be the last crop off because it can handle winter conditions better than others.

“The seed quality generally does pretty well. It’s kind of like flax that way,” said Penner.

The export market for canaryseed has been dwindling. Shipments have fallen from 165,000 tonnes in 2014-15 to 146,000 tonnes last year to an estimated 125,000 tonne program this year.

“It’s not a booming market.”

Manufacturers of wild birdseed tend to substitute cheaper millet when canaryseed prices climb too high. With slumping export sales, there should be ample supplies if farmers are able to get out in their fields before the snow arrives.

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