The Canadian Wheat Board's preliminary report is not predicting a rosy summer for Saskatchewan farmers.
Unrelenting rain across large areas of Western Canada will severely impact grain production and leave more than six million acres unseeded this year, the CWB announced Thursday in its preliminary forecast. For the second year in a row, crop prospects are dismal on the Prairies.
"Many farmers in the wettest areas have planted next to nothing this spring, while others are watching their newly emerged crops drown," said Bruce Burnett, CWB director of weather and market analysis, at the CWB's annual grain industry briefing. "This is occurring at a time when grain prices are extremely high, adding insult to injury."
In total, between six and eight million acres of farmland will go unseeded across the Prairies, according to the CWB. Wheat acres, only slightly larger than last year, will be the second-smallest since 1971 at 20.3 million acres, down 1.7 million acres from average. Durum area is pegged at 3.4 million acres. Seeded barley acres are projected at 6.7 million acres, although good weather in the next two weeks could see that number rise.
"Weather over the next two weeks will be critical if there is any hope of lifting expectations for seeding," Burnett said. "On the whole, the Prairie crop has been seeded much later than last year, which is raising serious concerns about the potential for frost damage this fall from a late harvest."
The situation is particularly bad in southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, where large areas of farmland have been abandoned. Pockets of severely wet areas dot the entire southern Prairies, from Manitoba's Red River Valley to Lethbridge, Alberta. Overall across the Prairies, seeding of major crops is about 86 per cent complete. Normally at this time of year, seeding is entirely complete.
Total all-wheat production is forecast at 20.3 million tonnes, including 3.8 million tonnes of durum, and barley production is forecast at 7.7 million tonnes. The all-wheat yield is projected at 37.9 bushels per acres, durum yields are forecast at 35.5 bushels per acre, and barley yields are projected to be 59.1 bushels per acre. Crop development is significantly behind normal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week forecast world wheat production at 664.3 million tonnes for 2011, the third largest on record. This number, however, does not account for the seeding difficulties on the Canadian Prairies and the northern tier of the United States. CWB analysts also reported that the U.S. is harvesting a drought-reduced Kansas winter-wheat crop, while a major drought is affecting crops in Europe. Russia has seen some drought recovery but still needs timely moisture for its spring crops. North Africa is suffering from rain during harvest, while conditions are looking good for seeding in Australia.
Burnett said the big international story rests with serious difficulties in planting the U.S. corn crop. The USDA is projecting a decrease by the end of 2011 in corn stocks that are already in critically short supply.
"Corn is a major focus because of the price ripple effect it has for all crops," he said.