Alberta Agriculture's Weekly Crop Market Review shows barley prices FOB southern Alberta as high as $360/metric ton as of the week ending May 10, up $13/mt from the previous week and up $40/mt from late March/early April. This is up from $235/mt reported for this week last year and the three-year average of $253.33/mt.
This gain was realized despite a significant 88 1/2-cent loss in the July corn future for the week, while Alberta Agriculture reports corn FOB Lethbridge at $407.50/mt, up $10/mt from the week prior, despite the weakness in future and despite a 20-basis point gain in the spot Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar that increased the purchasing power of the Canadian currency. Supplies available for import are seen tightening. Statistics Canada shows Alberta imports of barley at 31,847 mt in the January-March period of 2021, up 123.7% from the same period in 2020.
Long-term data would signal an easing in prices as fieldwork such as seeding and crop spraying ends, although last year, the weekly price gained a further $13/mt from the week in question until mid-June, while the three-year average shows a $14.66/mt increase from the week of May 10 through to the middle of June. In 2019-20, this price eased only $3/mt from mid-June through to the end of the crop year, while on average over three years, fell by $11/mt by July 31.
Statistics Canada's March 31 stocks included an estimate of 2.806 million metric tons of barley, down 20.5% from March 31, 2020 and 21.6% from the five-year average. Since then, weekly Canadian Grain Commission data includes exports of 743,400 mt and estimates domestic use at 142,600 mt (week 35 through week 40), for total disappearance of 886,000 mt.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's April supply and demand estimates, which are likely to be updated this week, included an upward revision of 120,000 mt of U.S. imports of barley to 180,000 mt, which is still expected to lead to a record low for 2020-21 stocks of 500,000 mt. As of March, Statistics Canada reports imports totaling 165,569 mt, with 37,170 mt imported during March.
While there are a number of factors that can affect supply and demand during the summer and prior to new-crop availability, such as weather and the condition of pastures, the availability of barley for import and the true supply of barley available on the Prairies, the earliest combines to roll in the southern areas of the Prairies should lead to a win-win scenario for both buyer and seller.
Cliff Jamieson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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