Spring harvested canola unlikely to be food quality

Plenty of canola from the 2016crop remains to be harvested but not much will be food worthy, says an analyst.

Derek Squair, president of Agri-Trend Marketing, believes 1.3 million acres are left in fields across Western Canada.

He estimates 20 percent of what remains is still standing and the remainder is in swaths.

“Anything that’s standing is half the yield it was last fall,” said Squair.

Crop in the swath has 75 percent of last fall’s yield potential but the quality is dismal with plenty of heated, mouldy and otherwise damaged canola. The Easter weekend of snow and rain added to the misery.

Keith Gabert, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, struggled all winter to get a handle on how much canola was under the snow. He said 1.3 million acres wouldn’t surprise him.

“This is unprecedented for the amount of crop that’s left out for spring. That will really impact the industry’s ability to blend it in.”

Gabert said it is too early to tell what shape that canola is in but he has spoken to processors who are worried about high, free fatty acid levels, mice damage and deer droppings.

He encouraged growers to submit samples of their spring-harvested canola to the Canadian Grain Commission to help gather data about what happens to the crop when it overwinters.

“When we looked for a good data set of what spring-threshed canola is going to look like, nobody really seemed to have anything other than a few stories,” said Gabert.

Squair guesses 800,000 to 900,000 tonnes of canola are left in fields but much of that will not be suitable for food. It will be consumed as feed or converted into bio-diesel.

Statistics Canada estimates there were 18.4 million tonnes of canola production in 2016-17.

Squair believes that number should increase to 18.7 million tonnes of usable product with what is combined this spring.

He agrees with Agriculture Canada’s forecast that 19 million tonnes of canola will be exported and crushed domestically.

Squair believes 1.5 million tonnes of canola were carried over from the previous year and 1.3 million tonnes will be left over at the end of the current marketing campaign.

That number is slightly higher than Agriculture Canada’s 1.1 million tonnes of carryout, but it is still tight.

That is due to strong early-season export and crush programs. Exports were 10 percent ahead of the previous year’s pace through week 35 of the marketing campaign while the crush was 13 percent ahead.

That is despite having less total supply to work with.

“We pulled a lot of business forward this year because of the harvest and the position it put producers in to move high moisture canola before it spoiled,” he said.

Good canola movement is leading to dwindling supplies and to plenty of talk of more acres going in the ground in 2017.

Squair forecasts 21.8 million acres based on conversations he has had with clients, up from 20.4 million acres last year and well above Agriculture Canada’s forecast of 21 million acres.

“We’re quite surprised at the way producers are thinking on putting more canola acres in than they did last year,” he said.

Squair believes canola will take ground away from pulses and barley.

But before seeding happens the 2016 crop needs to come off. Gabert expects it will all get combined.

“Simply because it’s the only method they have to tidy up that crop residue and get it ready to seed,” he said.

How much time farmers spend in the combine will depend on the quality of what is laying in the swath.

“Will they be adjusting the sieves and saving a valuable crop or will they be looking at it and deciding how much they want to blow over?” said Gabert.

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