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Crop Progress Update – October 16, 2018

Harvest progress over the past three weeks has been painfully slow in Western Canada. The weather has been abysmal. Snowfall, frost, and rainy wet conditions have made harvest a nightmare. Farmers in all three provinces have been stymied by the inclement weather conditions which in many areas prevented them from entering their fields.

The unharvested barley acres, which have been subject to relentless wet conditions, will certainly dash the hopes of many famers of having their barley accepted as malt barley. With the outlook for warmer, dry conditions over the next week, there is always hope that some of the late seeded barley that is still standing could meet malt specifications, however the reality is that most of the unharvested barley will be downgraded into the feed category.

The wet conditions certainly reduced the amount of available malt barley that will be offered to the export market.  Prior to the rain and snow, it was estimated there would be 3.5 million tonnes of malt barley available for the domestic and export market. Now we will have to wait for the final number when harvest is complete, but there is no doubt that the crop remaining to be harvested will not result in much additional malt barley.

Even with the poor harvest conditions, Saskatchewan is the one bright area that produced some good malt barley tonnage. There is still optimism that Canada will easily surpass one million tonnes of malting barley exports this crop year. Recently exporters have raised their prices in the country trying to increase their barley purchases to ensure adequate supplies for our export markets, particularly China.

Alberta

Of the three western provinces, Alberta has been the most severely affected by the weather issues. Normally Alberta is 85% complete at this time of year but presently it is slightly less than 50% done. Team Alberta, which comprises the Alberta wheat and barley commissions, Alberta Pulse Growers and Alberta Canola, is alerting Alberta Agricultural officials that there is over $3 billion in crops that remain in the field. They want to make sure that government agencies are prepared to respond promptly to unharvested acre claims and to consider all options to help farmers deal with a difficult harvest. Presently, there is still more than seven million acres to be harvested in Alberta, with the majority of the acres in the middle and northern tier of the province. All areas of the province struggled the last few weeks to advance in their harvest.

  • South: This area is normally doing fall work at this time of year and it resumed harvest Monday afternoon. Their forecast looks good for the next two weeks and they should easily complete the harvest of the last seeded barley and other crops still in the fields.
  • Central: This area has been stalled with snow cover and little progress has been made in the last ten days. There is great harvest weather is in the forecast starting today and well into next week which should give farmers a great opportunity to harvest their crops.
  • North: This region has less than 50% of their barley harvested as conditions have been awful for the last month with snow, frost and rainy weather plaguing this region. The weather forecast is for good warm weather for the next ten days.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, the crop is slightly over 80% harvested and there is warm dry weather in the forecast for the entire week with day time temperatures in the mid- to lower-teens. This should give farmers in most regions of the province the opportunity to harvest the remainder of their crops. The area that is most at risk is the northwest section, which has been hit with excessive wet conditions consisting of snow, rain and frost. Most, if not all, of the barley in this area will have to be dried. The southeast and southwest corners of the province are within days of completing their harvest.

The forecast in the northeast corner of the province, where farmers have harvested 65% of their crop, is for a warm dry week which will likely support a huge jump in harvested acres. Some farmers in this area have not turned a wheel in the last three weeks. The west-central and east-central regions are also roughly 65% completed in their harvest, however the warm weather forecasted for this area in the next week will give farmers the opportunity to get their combines rolling.

Manitoba

For all intents and purposes Manitoba has completed the harvest with barley production estimated around 500,000 tonnes this year with generally favourable results for malting barley.  Much of the remaining barley that is being harvested is wet, which is testing farmers’ abilities to dry their crops and causing additional costs. Those who do not have dryers are relying on the commercial grain terminals to dry their crop, however some of the inland terminals do not have functioning dryers and others have refused to accept any more grain to dry at this time as they are overrun.