Alberta Agriculture's yield index for all crops was reported slightly higher in the most recent Sept. 5 report at 95.1%, as compared to the 94% reported as of the August 22 report. As reported, better-than-expected results in the Central Region are seen offsetting a drop in the Southern Region, while the northern regions were left unchanged.
While current dryland yield estimates reported by Alberta Agriculture remains close to the most recent Statistics Canada estimates for most crops, one crop that perhaps stands out is the current yield estimates for Alberta barley. The most recent Statistics Canada estimate at 67.9 bushels per acre is based on July producer surveys, while Alberta Agricultures latest dryland yield estimate is pegged at 59.7 bpa with the harvest estimated at 39.1% complete.
As seen on the attached chart, the Statistics Canada production estimate is already showing Alberta's barley production at 3.720 million metric tons (last blue bar), which is the lowest level seen since the drought-reduced crop in 2002 of 2.547 mmt. The final yellow bar points to the potential for production to fall further to 3.269 mmt, given the Alberta government's latest dryland yield estimate.
The question remains whether yields will continue to surprise as the harvest advances in the north. Looking at Statistics Canada's Small Area Data for Alberta, three of the five Small Area Data Regions that make up the North East Region, the North West Region and the Peace Region that had yet to see significant harvest activity, as of the Sept.5 crop report, have shown a tendency to produce yields above the provincial average over the past five years.
As well, data over the past three years has shown a tendency for final Statistics Canada estimates to be higher than the early September estimates produced by Alberta Agriculture. Over the period, final official estimates from Statistics Canada ranged from .4 bpa to 13.3 bpa higher than provincial government estimates, averaging 6.6 bpa higher over the three years. There is also a tendency for Statistics Canada to underestimate the crop potential in its July estimates. Over the past five years (2012 to 2016), the final barley estimate has averaged 2.7% higher than the July estimate, although it is the closest of all major crops when final estimates are compared to the earlier July estimates.
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