Grain prices compare favourably to last year

There’s a general impression that grain prices are weak and unimpressive, but comparing prices to those of one year ago paints a different picture. Most commodity prices are better as we start 2019.

The Saskatchewan agriculture ministry publishes market trends on its website at saskatchewan.ca/agriculture with information sourced from various grain companies, the Price and Data Quotes website and Stat Publishing.

Price levels and comparative price levels between crops at this time of year affect seeding intentions. These prices also instruct the insured price levels for crop insurance that will be announced in the coming months.

On Jan. 2, 2018, canola was pegged at $465.75 a tonne or $10.59 a bushel. The price to start 2019 was $461.50 a tonne or $10.47 a bu. Of course, canola can make significant price moves over the course of just a few days. Plus, significant price variation can exist from one delivery point to another. However, the most important crop in Western Canada is in a similar price range to last year.

Spring wheat prices are improved. No. 1 Canadian Western red spring wheat is pegged at $6.82 per bu. versus $6.47 last year. With the price improvement, some producers say their spring wheat crop has been more profitable than their canola.

That sentiment does not extend to durum, which has been hit by oversupply and an Italian bias against Canadian production. A year ago, durum was $7.26 a bu., according to the Sask Ag data. To start 2019, the price is pegged at only $6.07 a bu. and that’s actually a bit of an improvement from post-harvest lows.

With durum mired at a price discount to spring wheat, most observers are expecting a sizable drop in durum acreage this spring.

Feed barley has been a pleasant surprise with a Saskatchewan price pegged at $4.21 a bu. versus $3.74 a year ago. Oats have been even more impressive. Oat values vary widely depending on quality and proximity to major markets. Sask Ag lists a No. 3 CW oat price of $3.13 a bu. compared to just $2.43 a year ago. Expect an increase in both barley and oat acreage this spring.

Flax prices are remaining strong at $12.66 a bu. as compared to $11.79 last year, and that may also spur more acres.

While there has been a lot of angst over pulse crop tariffs in India, red lentil prices have been improving and at around 18 cents a pound, are slightly higher than last year. Green lentil prices, on the other hand, are down dramatically. Many lentil acres shifted from red to green in 2018, driving down the price of greens. Large green lentil prices have improved in the past couple months, but remain around 22.5 cents a lb. versus 34 cents at this time last year.

Field pea prices are doing well with China replacing India as the major buyer. Yellow peas were pegged at $7.37 a bu. to start the year, up from $6.50 last year. Green peas are even more impressive sitting at $10.10 when last January they were $7.50.

Meanwhile, chickpea prices have crashed with nine millimetre kabuli chickpeas dropping from 61 cents a lb. a year ago to just 26 cents this year.

Prices for all three classes of mustard are down dramatically from year ago. Canaryseed, at around 22.5 cents a lb., is up a couple cents.

Overall, it’s a somewhat better picture than a year ago.

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