by Jen Skerritt
It’s been so dry on Levi Wood’s Saskatchewan farm, his 4,500 acres of durum-wheat plants are six inches (15 centimeters) shorter than last year. A little more than an inch of rain fell during the entire growing season -- a fraction of normal -- and he expects yields will drop by as much as a third this harvest.
“Those plants just ran out of moisture,” said Wood, 33, who is also the president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and farms about 22 miles west of Regina, Saskatchewan, in Pense. “We would’ve had a pretty good crop if we just had a little bit more rain.”
Wheat output in Canada, one of the world’s largest exporters, will probably drop to a six-year low after farmers planted fewer acres and hot, dry weather scorched parts of the prairies. The drought that gripped the northern U.S. and damaged crops also parched parts of southern and central Saskatchewan and Alberta, the country’s largest producers. Some fields received less than 40% of average rainfall since April 1, according to data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Production will probably fall 17% to 26.4 million metric tons in 2017, the smallest harvest since 2011, according to a survey of five analysts by Bloomberg News. Farmers will probably harvest 5.1 million tons of durum, down 35% from a year earlier and the lowest output in five years.
Even as the weather woes are dragging down output, benchmark wheat futures in Chicago fell into a bear market this week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast global inventories will reach a record amid bigger harvests in Russia and neighboring nations.
Spring wheat futures fell 0.8% to $6.7925 a bushel at 8:54 a.m. on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.
Saskatchewan’s crop losses will also be partially offset as plants in other regions of the country are doing well, said Ken Ball, a senior commodity futures adviser at PI Financial in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Crops in most of Manitoba and northern areas are in good shape, despite some acres that were left unseeded due to excess moisture this spring, he said.
Canola production is expected to fall to 18.1 million tons, according to the survey. While that’s only a 1.8% decline from a year earlier, the drop will help prices to remain strong as production falls short of demand expected near 20 million tons, Ball said.
“We’ve got conditions ranging from extremely good to disastrous in the prairies,” Ball said by telephone. “I’ve got clients in southern Saskatchewan that some of their land probably isn’t even worth running a combine through. The conditions are very extreme this year.”
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