Canola seed prices not equal

Canola seed prices vary wildly by province and region, according to a new report by Farmer’s Business Network Canada.

The report is based on 533 seed invoices contributed by 280 farmer members of the network. FBN published price data for the seven most popular varieties.

The largest variation in prices was for InVigor L223P, which had a range of $268 per bag between the highest and lowest prices paid. The lowest variation was $146 per bag for InVigor L140P.

“FBN fundamentally doesn’t believe that those kinds of differences should exist,” said Paul Rosenfield, FBN’s data scientist.

“We believe and we advocate for transparent national pricing. Under that kind of model you would never get two farmers paying ($268) different for exactly the same bag.”

The Canola Council of Canada was contacted for this story. The council said it would be better to speak directly with a seed company.

BASF said it sells its InVigor canola hybrids through a distribution/retail network and does not negotiate with or sell to growers directly. BASF said it does not differentiate prices by geographic region.

Nutrien, the world’s largest retailer of crop inputs, was contacted for this story but could not respond in time to meet The Western Producer’s publication deadline.

FBN acknowledged that the $268 number represents the difference in the two outlier prices but said there were many farmers paying $50 to $100 more or less than other growers.

Rosenfield said the results of the survey are statistically significant.

“We would not publish something that we do not believe is statistically defensible,” he said.

Farmers in Saskatchewan paid substantially more for their canola seed than growers in the neighbouring provinces. Growers in central and southern Saskatchewan tended to pay the most for their canola.

Canola seed is the biggest input cost for growers in Saskatchewan’s brown soil zone, according to the province’s 2019 Crop Planning Guide.

Canola seed cost farmers an estimated $66.19 per acre compared to $59.06 for nitrogen fertilizer and $49.99 for herbicides, the next two most expensive inputs.

FBN has a theory on why seed retailers negotiate with individual growers rather than transparently publishing prices.

“This allows seed companies to sell the exact same seed to different farmers at sometimes radically different prices,” it stated in the 14-page report.

“Common seed industry practices such as zone pricing, bundling, rebate programs and complicated discounting practices also make seed pricing unclear and confusing.”

The report also breaks out what farmers are paying for traits and treatments.

Clearfield varieties are about $120 per bag cheaper than Roundup Ready and LibertyLink varieties.

But LibertyLink was by far the most popular trait among FBN’s members, accounting for 77 percent of sales followed by Roundup Ready at 19 percent and Clearfield a distant third at four percent.

There was a huge discrepancy in the cost of other traits. Clubroot was the cheapest disease resistance trait, costing growers an average of $5 per bag compared to $74 per bag for sclerotinia.

Pod shatter resistance costs farmers an estimated $92 per bag. It is the most common and most expensive resistance trait.

FBN also unveiled the cost of seed treatments. Helix Vibrance and Prosper EverGol are the cheapest and most commonly used treatments.

Lumiderm and Fortenza Duo are about $108 and $131 per bag more expensive, respectively. Both provide an additional insecticide called cyantraniliprole.

Jumpstart XL is $91 per bag more expensive than Prosper EverGol and adds a bacterium called penicillium bilaiae, which is supposed to increase soil phosphorus availability, stated the FBN report.

FBN co-founder Charles Baron said there is always keen interest in the company’s seed pricing reports in the United States.

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