Canaryseed market dull, static say experts

Over the last 15 months prices for canaryseed have fluctuated between 20 to 23 cents per pound delivered in Western Canada, and there’s little chance that will change any time soon.

To David Nobbs, managing partner of Canpulse Foods in Saskatoon, Sask. and a director with the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan, the canary seed market has not changed much for quite some time.

“It’s a very dull market. It’s been like this for a number of years. We had a couple of spurts in the fall, and the fall prices have been the high mark for the whole year,” he said.

While there is a small demand for hairless varieties of canaryseed for human consumption, CDCS Executive Director Kevin Hursh said that aspect does not affect the market very much. Itchy varieties are grown for bird seed.

“This is almost a market that’s driven entirely by bird seed demand, and that tends to be a pretty static demand,” he said, adding most of Canada’s canaryseed exports go to Mexico and Europe.

Nobbs said the delays to the fall harvest “stirred prices up a bit” with it being pushed to 24 cents until more of the crop came off the fields and then price settled to 22 to 23 cents per pound. Even when the loonie loses strength that doesn’t solve much he said.

“Our slightly weaker Canadian dollar is helping, but the (Mexican) Peso and the Euro are at super weak levels too, and those two regions take half of the canary in the world.”

Saskatchewan is Canada’s leading producer of canaryseed with 145,000 tonnes in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. But this year, Saskatchewan’s production dropped by nearly a third to 98,800 tonnes. Still that was more than 89 per cent of all the canary seed grown in Canada. Crops elsewhere in the country were either too small to provide data or withheld to meet the confidentiality requirements of the Statistics Act.

Hursh said canaryseed production dropped in 2018 because other prices, such as durum, looked better at the time farmers were deciding what to plant.

“I think if people would have known how poorly durum prices were going to do, that probably would have changed decisions resulting in more canaryseed acres,” he said.

Nobbs said he distrusts Statistics Canada’s data and believes Saskatchewan continues to produce 140,000 to 150,000 tonnes of canaryseed year after year.

Statistics Canada releases its updated production estimates on Dec. 6.

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