It is shaping up to be a memorable season for Australian canola growers

One person's loss is another one's gain

Cropping
Australian canola growers are particularly benefiting from poor conditions in Canada as prices climb above $1000 per tonne.

Australian canola growers are particularly benefiting from poor conditions in Canada as prices climb above $1000 per tonne.

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Australian canola prices crash through $1000, partly due to poor Canadian conditions.

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The extent of winter crop damage, and subsequent grain production loss, due to the devastating drought conditions throughout much of Canada this year is borne out in the latest "Outlook for Principal Field Crops", which was released by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in late September.

This outlook incorporates yield estimates from Statistics Canada.

These are based on a model featuring analysis of coarse resolution satellite data, agri-climatic data and limited field data.

The wash-up is a forecast reduction of almost 30 per cent in total field crop production in Canada in 2021-22, compared to the previous season.

The decline for the western Canadian provinces, where most of the country's field crop output occurs, was even more dramatic.

Estimates are that production in these regions will be down 40pc year-on-year, and 36pc below the five-year average.

Partially offsetting the woes in the country's west was a slight increase in eastern Canada's production forecast, compared to 2020-21, due to significantly more favourable climatic conditions.

As at August 31, drought encompassed 94 per cent of western Canada's agricultural land.

The September 30 update had not been released at the time of writing this report.

Canadian farmers planted 31.518 million hectares to all field crops in the current season, which was up slightly from 31.491 million hectares in the 2020-21 season.

But production plummeted from a record 99.75 million tonnes last year to 70.384 million tonnes for the harvest that is just winding-up.

That might be a big drop, but much of the local Canadian commentary suggests that the cuts were not nearly deep enough considering the poor season.

Historical data reveals this is the biggest year-on-year percentage drop since 1961, when total production dropped by 38.2pc.

Yield estimates across all field crops fell from an average of 3.27 tonnes per hectare to 2.33t/ha.

But the particularly interesting statistic was the proportion of abandonment, which climbed from 1 million hectares to 1.32 million hectares.

This was a surprisingly minor jump for such a disastrous production season.

The coarse resolution-based modelling adopted for the September report relies on historical averages for the harvested area, which is a shortcoming of the methodology in a season such as that experienced by Canadian farmers in 2021.

It means that most of the reported production loss has been due to lower yields, which leaves the production door ajar for further falls when a reality check is made of the satellite analysis before the November update.

Analysing the data at a commodity level shows Canada's total wheat production is estimated to be 21.715 million tonnes.

This is down by more than 38pc from Canada's second-biggest ever harvest of 35.183 million tonnes last year.

It will be the smallest wheat crop since the 2007-08 marketing year.

Accordingly, Canada's wheat export forecasts have fallen significantly from 26.407 million tonnes in 2020-21 to 15.6 million tonnes in the current marketing year, according to the AACF report.

This compares to the latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecast of 17 million tonnes.

But it does have a higher production forecast at 23 million tonnes.

Canada is the world's biggest producer of durum wheat, and production of 3.545 million tonnes is included in the total wheat production figure for the country. This is down 46pc from levels of last year's harvest.

Yields have dropped by a huge 77pc year-on-year, from 2.86t/ha to 1.62t/ha.

With tight carry-in stocks, total supply has dropped by 41pc from 6.946 million tonnes to 4.322 million tonnes - the fifth-lowest amount on record.

The supply tightness out of Canada has pushed European Union durum wheat consumers to Australia, with the potential for much more business when the current crop is harvested.

Canadian durum exports to the EU from July 1 to September 19 totaled just 170,100 tonnes, which was down from 485,000 tonnes in the first 12 weeks of 2020-21.

In the same period, Australian exports of durum wheat to the EU went from zero last year to 65,000 tonnes this year.

The EU imported 2.92 million tonnes of durum wheat last year, and Canada supplied 2.03 million tonnes.

This was about 35pc of total exports and almost 70pc of EU import demand.

Due to the lower supply in Canada, there will be fewer exports.

These are expected to drop from 5.773 million tonnes in 2020-21 to 3.1 million tonnes in the 2021-22 marketing year.

Australian exports can not fill the entire gap, but it will be impossible for Canada to export the same quantity to the EU this season.

Barley production in Canada is estimated at 7.141 million tonnes, which would be the smallest harvest since 1968.

This is down 33.5pc from last year's harvest of 10.741 million tonnes - despite a 7.8pc increase in the harvested area from 2.809 million hectares to 3.029 million hectares.

It will put a severe dent in exports, which are expected to fall by more than 55pc from 4.572 million tonnes last season to just 2.05 million tonnes in the current marketing year.

Consumers are not only faced with lower production out of Canada, but also serious quality issues.

The average protein level in this year's barley crop is about 14pc, which is creating a giant headache for brewers.

High protein malt creates challenges such as low extract levels, haze formation in beer and reduced shelf life of the packaged product.

Canada's canola crop has not been spared.

Canada is the world's biggest producer and exporter of canola.

But the drought conditions in the country have cut expected production by 34.4pc - from 19.485 million tonnes last harvest to 12.782 million tonnes this year.

Export expectations have plummeted accordingly, and are down by 36.2pc from 23.042 million tonnes to 14.699 million tonnes.

This production hiccup comes at a time when global demand is increasing with the push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement.

According to a recent Rabobank report, "government initiatives to curb emissions in the Northern Hemisphere will fundamentally change - and be the key drivers of - the global canola market".

The increased demand and lower production out of Canada saw new crop Australian canola prices trade above the $1000/t mark for the first time ever last Thursday.

Unheralded prices in a season when Australian production is expected to be a record is a huge bonanza for domestic growers.

Not to mention the potential kick for next year's planting intentions, which will no doubt be replicated in Canada - weather permitting.

It has definitely been a year to forget for most Canadian grain farmers.

Hopefully, with harvest still ahead of us, it will be one to remember for most Australian grain farmers.

We wish no ill will upon our Canadian cousins, but as the saying goes "one person's loss is another one's gain".

The story It is shaping up to be a memorable season for Australian canola growers first appeared on The Land.

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