Farmers may consider growing oats if seeding continues to be delayed

WINNIPEG, (CNS Canada) — With winter still hanging on across Western Canada, one buyer thinks it could lead to an uptick in oat acres.

“Later seeding generally increases oat acres. We’d rather see them seeded earlier but farmers have had a tendency when things get late (to) throw some more acres into oats,” said Scott Shiels with Grain Millers Canada in Yorkton, Sask.

According to Shiels, oats can be a bit hardier than other crops. They can survive a frost, while wheat will find itself downgraded to feed quality. There are also new shorter growing season varieties available.

Prices are holding steady for oats. New crop contracts were priced at about $3 per bushel earlier this spring with Shiels saying he has contracts into 2019.

“Markets are steady, futures have been down but basis levels have been adjusting accordingly to keep the price kind of in that $3 range for a cash market around here,” he said.

Canadian farmers seeded 3.15 million acres of oats last year. Agriculture Canada predicts a two percent increase to 3.27 million acres, according to its Outlook for Principal Field Crops report released March 22.

Shiels said he expects oat acres to rise by five percent from last year’s acreage, but is optimistic acres could rise by 10 percent. Statistics Canada releases its Principal Field Crop Areas report on April 27.

“I talk to farmers all day, every day. So that’s where I take my feedback. And the reasons that they give me (for planting oats this year) make a lot of sense. Prices are good, growing milling oats is easier than growing high protein red spring wheat,” he said.

Shiels has heard from farmers who said they aren’t expecting to get into fields until at least May 10. He talked with one farmer who predicted he would not get into fields until the Victoria Day long weekend of May 19-21.

“I don’t agree with him but he’s talking May long and I mean that’s scary. But we’ve seen it before and we don’t want to see it again but that’s the reality of it,” Shiels said.

Once late seeding comes into play, Shiels said many farmers look to save money by reducing inputs, making oats attractive.

The current drought conditions on the Prairies factor into that too, he added.

“(With) conditions being dry, producers tend to be thinking of those lower input crops and oats are one of those. You’ve still got to spend some money but your bottom line looks better when you’re not throwing $400 an acre into the ground,” he said.

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