Sask. canola estimate feels the heat

A wide gap is emerging between federal and provincial government yield estimates for crops like canola and durum.

Saskatchewan Agriculture’s first estimate of the year calls for a provincial average canola yield of 35 bushels per acre, which is well below Statistics Canada’s forecast of 41.1 bu. per acre.

Shannon Friesen, crops extension specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and the person who puts together the province’s weekly crop report, said yields have been disappointing.

“We have heard from many of our reporters that canola yields aren’t what they first expected them to be and that’s mainly due to the heat wave that we did have in August and the lack of moisture as well,” she said.

“The combination of it just being too hot and too dry for too long seems to have taken more of an impact on the crop than first thought.”

Yields are particularly dismal in the southwest of the province, where crop reporters are forecasting a 29 bu. per acre average.

Temperatures were in the 30 to 35 C range during flowering and early podding in that area of the province.

The hope was that yields would improve as harvest moves further north but an early-September frost may have capped the rebound potential, said Friesen.

Neil Townsend, chief market analyst with FarmLink Marketing Solutions, is in lockstep with Statistics Canada, forecasting a 41.5 bu. per acre average for Saskatchewan.

“There is nothing we’ve seen that would support 35,” he said.

“We might end up on the high side but I don’t think we’re high by 6 ½ bushels.”

Saskatchewan Agriculture’s number would result in 17.8 million tonnes of Canadian production, which would be 1.8 million tonnes below FarmLink’s estimate.

“The math just wouldn’t work. Canola would be $14 per bu.,” said Townsend.

MarketsFarm analyst Bruce Burnett has been steadily dropping his canola yield estimate.

During the Ag in Motion show in late July he was predicting a Prairie-wide canola yield of 42.6 bu. per acre. He’s now down to 39 bu. per acre in Saskatchewan.

He agreed with Townsend that if Saskatchewan Agriculture is correct, total production will be sub-18 million tonnes. That is a far cry from the 19.4 million tonne crop Statistics Canada is forecasting.

“We’re going to see some very, very tight stocks, so that’s going to create a price response here,” said Burnett.

That is already happening to some degree with canola prices on the rise last week.

The same scenario is unfolding to a lesser degree in Alberta.

Alberta Agriculture is forecasting 41.4 bu. per acre, which again is below Statistics Canada’s number of 43.9 bu. per acre.

Townsend is in the middle at 42.7, while Burnett is at 42.

Manitoba doesn’t generate yield estimates.

Burnett said durum is another crop where there is a considerable gap with Saskatchewan Agriculture forecasting 38 bu. per acre and Statistics Canada at 44.7.

“That’s going to make a huge difference,” he said.

“Instead of a production estimate close to seven million tonnes, you’re looking at a production estimate that’s below six. It makes a big swing.”

Statistics Canada is scheduled to release new yield and production estimates on Sept. 14 derived from satellite, survey and agroclimatic data.

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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