June 23, 2010 / 3:20 PM / in 7 years

Rains cast doubt on Canada crop stats

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Canadian government on Wednesday estimated that farmers planted or intended to plant a record canola area and less wheat and barley this year, but Statistics Canada admitted the report may not reflect the full impact of record spring rains.

Traders and analysts view the report as inaccurate, since Statscan surveyed farmers between May 25 and June 3, prior to disastrous June rains in Western Canada that left the country’s biggest unplanted acreage in 39 years.

The government statistics agency acknowledged its preliminary planting estimates may not reflect reality.

“As a result of continued inclement weather in Western Canada, estimates of planted areas may change considerably in the July farm survey, which will be released on August 20,” Statscan said.

Statscan pegged all-wheat acres at 22.72 million, down 7 percent from a year ago, and canola area at 17.895 million acres, up 10.5 percent. It estimates barley acres at 8.052 million acres (down 7 percent) and oat area of 3.738 million acres, marginally higher than last year.

(Graphic on crop areas: link.reuters.com/tyq63m )

While the trade doesn’t believe those acreages are realistic, some say the fact that farmers were still intent on planting that much wheat and canola in early June -- following unfavorably wet conditions in May -- suggests that acreages may not have fallen off as much as some thought.

The Canadian Wheat Board’s June 11 forecast of the smallest all-wheat plantings in 39 years -- 19.15 million acres -- now looks too pessimistic, said Lawrence Yakielashek, general manager and vice-president of grain company Alfred C. Toepfer (Canada).

“I don’t think it’s as bad for some crops as the picture that was painted,” he said.

Actual canola plantings are likely to be around 15 million to 16 million acres -- down sharply from last year and Statscan’s estimate, but still better than darker earlier projections, a trade source said.

Thoughts of better-than-expected wheat and canola plantings could be slightly bearish to Minneapolis spring wheat futures and ICE Canada canola futures, which have soared in the past two weeks on the grim Canadian conditions. But a canola futures trader said most traders are rejecting the report outright.

New-crop November canola futures were up 0.5 percent in early trading, with spring wheat futures rising 0.8 percent.

Statscan’s estimate of oats plantings, which is relatively flat compared to a year ago but down 6 percent from the agency’s April estimate, is still too optimistic, according to analyst Randy Strychar of Oatinsight.com.

“The report is going to be largely ignored by the oat trade,” Strychar said in a note to clients.

Strychar pegs actual oat plantings, which are concentrated in Saskatchewan, the wettest province, at 3.302 million acres, which would be 12 percent lower than Statscan’s estimate.

Chicago nearby oat futures were down 1 percent on Wednesday.

Canada is the world’s leading exporter of spring wheat, durum and canola and the No. 2 oat producer.

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