Marketing opportunities present themselves

With the generally soft tone in commodity markets, several new crop opportunities are attracting attention, but they may not last long.

Canola prices have been grinding lower since mid-November, but if you look at a five-year price graph, canola is still above the mid-range.

For fall 2018 delivery, canola prices approaching $11 a bushel can be locked in. Despite a canola supply that seems to get bigger with each new report, expect canola to capture a big chunk of the acres that will be switching away from red lentils and yellow peas.

While the general price direction for most crops is down, market analyst John DePutter is moderately bullish on the price outlook for flax, believing we could see an increase to the $13 or $14 a bu. range.

The trouble with flax for many growers is yield. If you’re only getting 20 or 25 bu. an acre, you need a good price to make any money. However, if flax prices do improve, it’s likely to attract acres.

Sticking with the oilseeds, brown and yellow mustard are attracting attention for their relatively strong prices, both on the spot market and for new crop. New crop contracts with an Act of God clause are available at around 37 cents a pound for brown mustard and 40 cents a lb. for yellow.

Oriental mustard isn’t in such short supply, and its new crop price is only around 34 cents a lb. However, if too many producers abandon oriental, it could be the star price performer a year from now.

Although mustard can be produced almost everywhere, the main production base has retreated to south-central and southwestern Saskatchewan along with parts of southern Alberta. It is not a viable option on land that has been recently seeded to canola because there’s no way to control the canola volunteers.

Despite this limitation, expect an acreage increase in this minor acreage crop as growers react to the favourable pricing signals.

While field pea acreage will see a significant drop in 2018, there’s increased interest in some of the specialty peas, particularly maple peas. Seed costs are high and many of the specialty peas are more troublesome to grow. As well, market niches can be easily oversupplied. Still, there appear to be some profitable opportunities.

In the traditionally dry areas, growers are showing more interest in large kabuli chickpeas than at any time in the past decade. Prices have been in the 60 to 70 cent a lb. range since harvest. With average yields approaching 1,200 lb. an acre, chickpeas were very profitable this year, even after the high expenditures for seed and fungicide.

New crop chickpea contract prices seem to have slipped over the past month, but price quotes are still around 40 cents a lb. Acreage will be up in southern Saskatchewan and possibly southern Alberta as existing growers expand their area and other growers give the crop another try after past disappointments.

Another minor acreage crop with opportunity is quinoa, but unlike chickpeas, quinoa is suited to wetter regions. NorQuin, based in Saskatoon with a cleaning facility in Melville, Sask., contracts the majority of the quinoa produced in Western Canada. The company says most of its past growers want to grow the crop again and as a result its 2018 contracting program is already full.

In the current pricing climate, growers might be well advised to act on profitable opportunities when they arise because they might not last very long.

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