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A report filed by the United States Department of Agriculture from this month said that it expects Canada’s wheat production in 2020 to be lower than expected, partially because of recent weather in Westman.
Approximately 300,000 fewer metric tonnes of wheat are now expected to be produced in the country in 2020 compared to the department’s original estimates, according to the department’s July 21 grain and feed update.
The original estimate said 34 million metric tonnes of wheat would likely be produced while the more recent update lists 33,700,000.
One of the possible factors contributing to this decreased estimate in the report are the "saturated soils and waterlogged fields" in southwestern Manitoba it said are now common after the heavy rains and flooding experienced in late June and early July.
"It’s certainly devastating for the producers who were right in the heart of that (storm)," Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers board chair Fred Greig told the Sun on Friday. "Surprisingly, wheat crops can be very resilient, and it looks like other than spots that were drowned out completely, the rest of the crop looks pretty good. I don’t doubt that it took the top 20, 25 per cent off the yield potential. I think for the most part what I’m hearing from producers in that area is they’re still expecting at least average to above average (yields).
"I’m not so sure I would agree with the USDA as much as it’s favourable for prices for us if they think it’s going to be lower for us."
Grieg said weather conditions last year with a dry summer and a wet fall affected the milling quality of wheat crops in the province.
Based on feedback received from members, Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell said some producers lost up to 20 per cent of their oilseed crops during the storms, with a lot of damage coming from hail.
"When you get a significant hailstorm, it can totally wipe out your crops," he said. "Not are you looking at 20 per cent reductions, you’re looking at 100 per cent impacts."
Campbell, who runs a farm south of Brandon, said his property didn’t get as much rain as regions further north.
Both Campbell and Greig said despite the heavy rains earlier this summer, there are parts of the province that could really use an inch of rain in the near future.
Despite the reduced estimate, Canada’s overall wheat production is still expected to be higher than it was in 2018 and 2019.
"Area planted to durum wheat increased this marketing year owing to a shift away from oilseeds primarily due to lower canola prices at the time planting decisions were made," the USDA report said. "Area planted to durum increased 16 per cent to 2.3 million hectares, an increase of 22,000 hectares from the five-year average. In contrast, area planted to canola fell 0.8 per cent to 8.4 million hectares, according to Statistics Canada."
Canola prices dropped during the ongoing trade spat between Canada and China, when China stopped importing Canadian canola last year. Some imports ended up resuming at the end of March this year.
However, Campbell said he believes canola acreage has remained stable or has actually increased. Greig said he believes the amount of canola acreage has remained flat and concurred with Campbell about a decrease in another crop.
"I would agree (with reports) that soybean production is down and those acres may have been taken and sown to wheat," Campbell said.
While the canola market has been volatile, one Canadian crop has been getting more business from China. According to a July 9 article on CBC.ca, China and Australia are currently in a trade dispute, and so the Asian country has turned to Canada to fill the void.
Greig said the variety of barley grown in Canada has an enzyme that beer brewers in China prize, and the resulting business has been a welcome boost to Manitoba producers of the cereal.
"China seems to be one of our increasing customers over the last few years," he said. "They really do like our product, it seems to fit into their malting and brewing process. Yeah, that’s really good for us."
As of Aug. 1, the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association is merging with the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, the National Sunflower Association of Canada, Winter Cereals Manitoba Inc. and the Manitoba Flax Growers Association to create a single advocacy group, the Manitoba Crop Alliance.
While the merger wasn’t precipitated by money concerns, Greig said he expects it will provide cost savings, both for the organization and its members as resources are combined.
Each crop will have its own representative council under the Crop Alliance, with elections for its board taking place this fall. Until then, the existing boards of the constituent organizations will remain in their roles to represent their crops.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark
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