Canada Markets

Is Canada's Canola Area Set to Overtake Wheat?

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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As recent as 2003, Canada's all-wheat acres were over two times the area seeded to canola. Pre-report estimates pointing to the potential for a record area planted to canola in 2017 could also see that crop's area exceed wheat acres for the first time ever. (DTN graphic by Nick Scalise)

In advance of Friday's Statistics Canada Principal field crop areas report, pre-report trade estimates indicate the possibility of a record area planted to canola in 2017.

Canada media reports, using information released by Commodity News Service that is based on March producer surveys, show the range of pre-report estimates is from 20.3 million to 22.5 million acres. This is up from an estimated 20.367 million acres seeded in 2016 and compares to the 2012 record of 22 million acres.

Canola is usually viewed as the crop that pays the bills, and this year is no exception. As of week 36, or the week ending April 9, producers have delivered 14.3102 million metric tons of canola into the licensed handling system, up 12% from the same period last year while close to 3 mmt or 25.8% higher than the five-year average for this period. And buyers want more. Basis levels continue to strengthen, while canola futures are sharply diverging from the bearishness of the soybean market, given much tighter old-crop fundamentals.

Wheat acres, on the other hand, are expected to fall more than one million acres (spring wheat, durum and winter wheat remaining). Pre-report estimates suggest that all-wheat acres will range from 21.2 million acres to 23 million acres in 2017, down from 23.212 million acres seeded in 2016. The largest swing will be seen in durum acres, which are estimated to range from 4.8 million acres to 5.8 million acres, down from last year's 6.2 million.

Given the pre-report estimates shown, a Statistics Canada estimate for canola acres in the upper half of the range of pre-report estimates, along with a wheat estimate in the lower half of the range of pre-report estimates, could result in canola acres toppling wheat acres in Canada for the first time ever. As well, previous work done in this space points to the conservative nature of the acreage estimates released in March when it comes to oilseed acres, with the final estimate for canola acres averaging 5.5% higher than the spring estimate over the past five years. The opposite can be said for wheat, with the final spring wheat acres released in December averaging 3.1% below the earlier March estimate over the past five years, while the final durum estimate averages 1.2% lower. In other words, the April report tends to underestimate canola acres, while over-estimating spring wheat and durum acres.

Economics certainly play a role in the move to less wheat and more oilseeds, although other factors come into play. Last fall's estimates point to a 209,000-acre reduction in winter wheat acres seeded last fall, which is linked to a combination of weak market signals and the wet fall and late harvest which prevented seeding in some areas. As well, growing fusarium issues will lead to less durum planted, which has not fared well given the wetter climate faced in 2016.

An increase in canola acres could be followed by increased discussion surrounding shortened rotations and the increased susceptibility to disease. Last month, Keith Downey, the creator of the canola crop, expressed his concern surrounding the need for growers to seek better rotations.

While Friday's report will stimulate conversation, DTN discussion and reports over the past few weeks stress the importance of spring and growing season weather being key in the determination of crop production.

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Cliff Jamieson can be reached at cliff.jamieson@dtn.com

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