WINNIPEG/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian farmers intend to plant their biggest-ever canola area, exceeding trade expectations, and trim wheat sowings, according to Statistics Canada's first report on seeding for the year, released on Friday.
The report turned ICE Canada November canola futures RSX7 negative, dipping 0.8 percent after the report.
Canola plantings looked set to reach 22.4 million acres, up 10 percent from last year, and surpassing the average trade estimate of 21.3 million acres.
"There's going to be a lot more canola," said Shaun Wildman, a Saskatchewan farmer and independent futures trader. "(Forecast acreage) is a little higher than I expected, but I don't think it's completely unrealistic. The price signals are there."
Farmers sowing more canola are likely pulling back on acreage of lentils, barley and durum, he said.
Concerns about heavy snow in the past week in northern Alberta, where many fields went unharvested last autumn due to wet weather, had pushed canola prices to one-month highs this week.
Fieldwork in Canada has been slow due to cool weather and snow is possible in some areas during the next five days, Commodity Weather Group said on Friday.
Statscan pegged the all-wheat area at 23.2 million acres, down 0.1 percent from last year, but the estimate was bigger than traders and analysts expected.
The category includes spring wheat, which Statscan said will see an 8 percent acreage increase to 16.7 million acres, and durum wheat, seen dropping 17 percent to 5.1 million acres. Winter wheat acres are expected to drop 15 percent to 1.4 million acres, after wet fall conditions prevented some planting.
Statscan's estimate for more spring wheat seedings was "a shocker," said Brian Voth, president of farmer advisory IntelliFARM Inc, on a call to discuss the crop report organized by MGEX. Disease problems with last year's crop left a sour impression on many farmers, he said.
"You struggle to make a decent return on wheat any given year," he said. "It’s a frustrating crop to grow and market.”
Chicago May wheat futures WK7 hit a contract low after the larger-than-expected estimate.
Canada is one of the world's largest wheat exporters and the biggest shipper of canola, a cousin of rapeseed used largely to produce vegetable oil.
Statscan predicted a 21 percent jump in oat plantings, covering 3.4 million acres. Lentil sowings are seen dropping 25 percent to 4.4 million acres, after quality problems last year.
Editing by Bernadette Baum