Lentil acres to jump; wheat, canola may dip slightly

Lentils are the crop to watch.

The seeding intentions survey confirmed many of the anticipated acreage trends, but also provided surprises.

Most market watchers complain about the field crop reporting of Statistics Canada, but everyone still follows and analyses the numbers. Even though last week’s seeding intentions report was based on interviews conducted weeks ago and even though some farmers boast about telling fibs when contacted, a sample size of 11,000 farmers is impressive.

Lentils are the big story. Intended acreage is estimated at 5.14 million, up 30 percent from last year and last year was up 27 percent from the previous season.

Interestingly, lentils are still failing to catch on in Alberta. According to Statistics Canada, Alberta lentil acreage will be up only 14 percent to a measly 285,000 acres.

Across the west, peas are also seeing a sizable increase going to 4.28 million acres, up 16 percent. In Manitoba, pea acreage is more than doubling, but that only puts it at 155,000.

However, the soybean parade continues in Manitoba. Acreage is projected to increase another 10 percent to a record 1.53 million. That parade doesn’t extend to Sask-atchewan where soybeans are expected to drop from 270,000 acres last year to 245,000 this spring.

Corn intentions are up 44 percent in Manitoba, taking the crop to 360,000 acres. In Ontario, corn acreage is expected to go the other direction, dropping seven percent with many pointing to the new restrictions on neonicotinoid seed treatments as the reason.

Flax is expected to take a big acreage hit dropping to 1.12 million from the 1.6 million grown last year. Flax prices have softened and many producers continue to be disappointed with flax yields.

The big acreage crops are down a bit. A million fewer acres of spring wheat are expected and projections call for a canola acreage of 19.3 million, down four percent. Interestingly, canola acreage is stable in Manitoba, down three percent in Saskatchewan and down eight percent in Alberta.

Durum is picking up some of the acreage slack, up five percent. When you look at Saskatchewan in isolation, durum is at 5.3 million acres, not all that far behind the spring wheat acreage at 7.1 million.

Barley is up a modest four percent on the Prairies to 6.77 million, while oats is tumbling 11 percent to fewer than three million acres. The direction of acreages correlates to the relative price strength of each.

Mustard area is expected to increase by 25 percent with 320,000 acres in Saskatchewan and 110,000 in Alberta. Mustard contracts were available earlier than ever at historically attractive levels, so the acreage boost was predictable. If average yields are realized, producers may be glad to have some of their production priced.

Canaryseed, grown almost entirely in Saskatchewan, is expected to see an eight percent acreage drop to around 300,000, due to d slow international sales.

As the year unfolds, lentils will be the big story.

Will producers run into disease issues by shortening their lentil rotation? How will production fare in the non-traditional fringe areas?

If we do produce a big crop, will the demand from India be as insatiable as past years? Is this going to be a good news story for the pulse industry or will it be remembered for all the wrong reasons?

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