Western Canada floods seen crimping fertilizer flow to farms

Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:19pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Fertilizer makers may be hard-pressed this spring to move their yield-boosting products to Western Canadian farmers during a shortened planting season, as the potential for major flooding grows.

Cold weather has delayed the melt of heavy snowpack in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, raising the risk that floods in late April and May will keep farmers off their land.

Once their fields dry out, farmers are expected to have a tight window for planting crops such as canola and wheat, and applying fertilizer.

"There's a lot of (farmers) staring out the window and pondering what the spring is going to look like when they get on the field," said Kevin Helash, a vice-president with Agrium Inc, which produces fertilizer and sells it at the retail level under the name Crop Production Services (CPS).

"What we're getting ready for is everyone getting on the field at more or less the same time, and being very, very rushed."

Western Canada's planting season usually starts in late April and extends into early June. Helash sees planting across the Prairies, except for southern Alberta, beginning two to four weeks behind schedule.

Farmers are hesitant to plant late for fear that their crops will still be maturing in early September, when the first damaging frosts usually occur.

The biggest challenge will be moving popular nitrogen fertilizers during a shortened season from Western Canada plants owned by Yara International ASA, CF Industries Holdings Inc and Agrium to hundreds of retail outlets, said David Dow, who owns two stores and is chairman of the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers.   Continued...