Canada Snow Leaves 2 Million Crop Acres Stuck on Prairie Fields

05:34PM Apr 27, 2017
( Dusty Craig )

April snowfall in parts of Canada’s prairies has halted efforts to harvest more than 2 million acres (809,370 hectares) of grain leftover from 2016, delaying spring planting in some areas by at least two weeks.

In Alberta alone, there’s as many as 1.5 million acres that remain unharvested, and gathering has been hampered by light snow falling daily in central and northern areas, according to James Wright, a risk analyst with the province’s Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. Snow and cool weather have also slowed progress in Saskatchewan, where more than 1 million metric tons of grain is still sitting on fields from last year’s harvest after excess moisture made fields too wet to combine, according to the province’s agriculture ministry.

“If you have to harvest, plus you have to seed, it’s going to be a real time crunch,” Errol Anderson, the president of ProMarket Wire in Calgary, said by phone. “These delays are a minimum two weeks, but it’s almost throwing the province back the better part of a month.”

Canada is the world’s largest grower of canola and a major exporter of wheat, including spring varieties. The nation’s farmers usually start to sow their crops from the end of April through the beginning of May, depending on the weather.

Farmers may change their seeding intentions if delays persist. The planting concerns have also pushed up the price of canola, Anderson said.

Canola futures traded in Winnipeg touched C$525.80 ($386.53) a ton on Tuesday, the highest in six weeks.

Snow still has to melt in parts of Saskatchewan, and there is a lot of moisture and ruts on the fields, which could also delay harvesting of the grains, oilseeds and pulses left from last year, said Shannon Friesen, acting cropping management specialist for Saskatchewan’s agriculture ministry.

“We just keep getting hammered with these snowstorms,” Friesen said by phone from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. “It’s not the most ideal conditions for this time of year.”