Quality durum expected to be in short supply this year

If you have quality durum safe in a bin you will likely be able to sell it at an attractive price this year.

On the other hand, a lot of durum grown this summer was degraded first by rain and then by snow.

This column was written before the weekend when heavy snow was forecast from southern Alberta through Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan, which is the biggest durum producer, likely 40 to 50 percent of the crop was not yet in the bin before the predicted snow.

Statistics Canada had forecast the durum crop at a shade under five million tonnes, down from 5.745 million last year. How much of that winds up as feed is unknown at this time.

This is a case where what happens in Canada does affect the world market.

Cash prices of No. 1 Amber Durum 13 percent protein last week jumped to more than $7 per bushel in most prairie locations for the first time since August 2018, according to PDQinfo.com.

Last autumn durum cash fell below $6 per bu. but slowly rallied to around $6.50 by February and stayed there through much of the winter and spring.

Agriculture Canada forecast the average spot price in Saskatchewan for the crop year ranging from $6.40 to $7.21, so we are already at the top end of the range.

Movement has been good so far this crop year.

Exports in the first seven weeks, to Sept. 22, were at almost 650,000 tonnes compared to 321,300 at the same point last year and 574,700 two years ago, according to Canadian Grain Commission weekly figures.

The CGC monthly grain shipments by destination report for August was not yet available so we don’t know where the durum was going.

The region that traditionally imports the largest amount of Canadian durum is North Africa.

Their 2019-20 crops are in the bin. Algeria and Tunisia had good production but Morocco suffered from drought.

It is hard to say at this early point but it would not surprise me to find that Algeria and Tunisia import a little less durum and Morocco imports a little more, resulting in a similar amount of imports for the region as last year.

The United States produced a smaller durum crop this year, estimated at 1.56 million tonnes, down from 2.1 million last year.

The European Union produced stronger yields than last year but nevertheless a 15 percent decline in acres resulted in a smaller durum crop. Strategie Grains estimates 7.6 million tonnes of durum, down 1.1 million from the previous year and down 1.3 million two years ago.

Italy, historically the biggest buyer of Canadian durum in Europe, still has its country-of-origin labelling policy that is limiting imports. However, the amount it took in the last crop year partly recovered from the severe cut-back two years ago. It imported about 650,000 tonnes compared to only 387,000 the year before.

Some of the demand unfilled by Italy last year was picked up by Turkey, which suffered bad weather last year. It bought 315,000 tonnes, up from about 50,000 the year before.

Turkey’s latest harvest was again drought stressed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture attaché in the country estimated the durum crop at a disappointing 1.5 million tonnes so the Turks could be buying again this crop year.

All this adds up to prospects for a strong durum market this year.

The bad harvest weather will cause a larger than normal amount of low grade or feed durum, but we must also note that we started the crop year with 1.62 million tonnes of good quality carry-over durum.

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