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Canadian wheat plantings hit 9-year high as food prices spike

·2 min read
Wheat is harvested on a farm near Beausejour

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian farmers planted the most wheat this spring in nine years, as bottlenecks in global supplies drove up prices of grain and food, a government report showed on Tuesday.

Farmers seeded more spring wheat and canola than they intended in spring, according to Statistics Canada, but wet conditions raise doubts about how much land remains unplanted.

The Russia-Ukraine war has stranded Ukrainian stocks of wheat and sunflower oil from global markets.

Canada, a major wheat and canola exporter, is recovering from severe drought last year and expects to make up some of the global shortfalls that are raising risks of famine.

Statistics Canada pegged all-wheat plantings at 25.4 million acres, the most since 2013, and up slightly from its April estimate of 25 million. The area represents a 9% increase from last year and landed at the top end of a range of industry estimates.

The bump-up in overall wheat plantings reflected more acres of spring wheat, used in baking, than farmers anticipated in the spring. By contrast, farmers tapered back slightly on plantings of durum, used to make pasta, from their spring intentions.

Statistics Canada said farmers planted 21.4 million acres of canola, more than they intended in spring when StatsCan predicted 20.9 million acres, but down nearly 5% from last year. The estimate for canola, used to make vegetable oil, was in line with industry expectations.

The changes to both wheat and canola estimates from the spring report are "relatively minor", said Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather at MarketsFarm. "It gives us the potential for a bigger crop. Now it’s all about yields."

A big wildcard is how much land farmers were unable to plant. Heavy rains swamped Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan this spring.

StatsCan bumped its estimate of unplanted land up to 1.8 million acres from its April estimate of 1.6 million, the most in five years.

Burnett said the actual size of land that farmers could not plant is likely larger.

ICE Canada November canola futures extended their losses after the report, dropping 2%.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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