Canola exports behind last year’s pace

Canadian canola exports are running about half-a-million tonnes behind the year-ago pace. | File photo

Winnipeg (CNS Canada) – ICE Futures Canada canola contracts posted solid gains over the week ended April 20, correcting off of nearby lows despite a softer tone in Chicago soybeans and soyoil.

Weakness in the Canadian dollar, which lost about a cent relative to its United States counterpart, accounted for some of the strength in the futures. However, crush margins still deteriorated, making canola look expensive compared to other oilseeds.

That strength was partially tied to talk of increased export interest, as the ongoing trade dispute between China and the U.S. reportedly has some Chinese interest shifting away from soybeans

However, that talk has not yet shown itself in actual physical movement, with Canadian canola exports still running about half-a-million tonnes behind the year-ago pace. While the latest weekly canola exports of 243,000 tonnes were the best in over a month, a strike at Canadian Pacific Rail could put a damper on any more export activity as the already slow movement from the Prairies to the Coast faces another hurdle.

The strike was averted over the weekend, but a disruption is still possible as the two sides have yet to reach an agreement.

As winter finally gives way to spring, the weather was also at the forefront of the agricultural markets during the week. Another blast of snow in Alberta and Saskatchewan kept fears of a late start to spring seeding alive. However, the forecasts are turning warmer, and planting will be underway where conditions allow within the next few weeks.

Statistics Canada releases its first survey-based acreage estimates on April 27. Most industry participants are expecting to see another record large canola crop in the country of possibly a million acres above the 23 million seeded last year.

Weather kept the U.S. markets on edge during the week as well, with snow leading to seeding delays in the Midwest, while the chance of rain in the southern Plains weighed on wheat.

China imposed a hefty 179 per cent tariff of sorghum in the escalating tit-for-tat trade war. While sorghum is a minor crop in the grand scheme of things, it still accounts for about six million acres in the U.S. – with China the main buyer. Boats carrying the grain en route to China have reportedly been rerouted, and the hit to prices will likely have some producers questioning their rotations. Soybeans and corn are the two likely contenders to take some acres, although more tariffs against those crops are still a possibility as well.

For wheat, dryness in the southern Plains was alleviated somewhat by weekend rains, but more moisture will be needed. Meanwhile, spring wheat seeding operations were running behind normal in the northern U.S. growing regions due to the cool and wet spring. Forecasts are finally changing, and the Minneapolis spring wheat premiums are expected to erode.

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