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Canada's wetness-plagued harvest may not be completed until spring


Canada’s wetness-plagued harvest may not be completed until next year, officials said, warning of downgrades ahead to their output forecasts, and of quality “well below” 2018 results.


In the Prairie provinces, which account for the vast majority of Canadian crop output, “there are concerns that a portion of the crop may not be harvested until the spring unless favourable weather conditions facilitate the completion of harvest”, said AAFC, Canada’s farm ministry.


The comments follow “cold wet conditions which have prevailed on the Prairies since September”, with setbacks too from heavy snows early last month.


In canola, of instance, the ministry estimated that 16% of the country’s crop remained unharvested as of the start of this month, “with delays increasing as we move from east to west across western Canada”.


The latest figure for Saskatchewan was, according to provincial data, 88% completion, as of late October, with Alberta reporting 83% of its canola in the barn as of November 12.


Last year, the Alberta crop was 92% harvested as of the end of October, the latest progress data for the season available.


‘More rain and snow forecast’

The caution came in a report in which AAFC stuck by expectations for crop forecasts, but said that downgrades lay ahead, with further information to be gleaned from a December 6 Statistics Canada report.


For barley, in which the Prairies harvest “has been struggling with wet weather… considering the unharvested area in the Prairie Provinces at this time and the continued wet and cold weather in November”, official production estimates will “likely” turn out lower than had been forecast.


For corn, “with more rain and snow forecast in both eastern and western Canada in November… production in Canada is anticipated to be much lower” than the StatsCan September estimate on which AAFC bases its numbers.


For oats too, “given the unharvested area in the Prairie provinces and continued wet and cold weather throughout the rest of the harvest season… production for 2019-20 in Canada is anticipated to be lower than the estimated production” by StatsCan in September,” the ministry said.


‘Quality issues’

AAFC also noted that the “quality of the crop for some commodities is well below last year, especially for the grains”, seeing specifications deteriorating as later-harvested and more-weather-damaged crop is included.


For barley while the quality early-harvested crop was “generally good… late harvested crop is expected to show a decrease in quality”.


In canola too, “quality is expected to deteriorate as samples from later harvested crops are submitted,” while for oats, the ministry cautioned of “high possibilities of quality issues”.


‘Significant downgrading’

While the ministry did not in wheat address quality dynamics, a separate briefing released overnight from the US Department of Agriculture’s Ottawa bureau cautioned that for the grain “the combination of delayed harvest, moisture, and frost is causing grain quality concerns in north and central Alberta and sections of Saskatchewan.


“There have been reports of significant downgrading for crops harvested after about October 12 due to sprouted kernels, which decreases the [Hagberg] falling number, and mildew.”


In Manitoba, “some wheat (and barley) began sprouting in September”, with some sprouted kernels found in Alberta then too.


The bureau added that it was “forecasting significant downgrading, particularly of spring wheat”.


‘Difficult to market’

The USDA bureau pegged the Canadian all-wheat harvest this year at 32.0m tonnes – a drop of 200,000 tonnes year on year, and below the USDA’s official estimate of 33.0m tonnes.


Thanks to the quality worries too, the bureau was also more downbeat on Canadian wheat export prospects for 2019-20 (as ends in July in Canada) seeing shipments reach 22.20m tonnes – 2.30m tonnes below the USDA’s official forecast.


“There is greater quality variability in the lower grade wheat, which may make it difficult to market,” the bureau said, reporting Canada’s 2018-19 wheat shipments at 24.41m tonnes.


“Different downgrading factors impact quality differently, meaning that downgrades in a No. 3 wheat or lower could change between shipments.”


AAFC forecasts the harvest at 32.49m tonnes, with 2019-20 all-wheat exports pegged at 23.70m tonnes.

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