Monday August 03 2015





The Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations in Hawaii ended without an agreement and without setting a date for the next negotiating session. A brief official statement did not give a reason. Other sources said agreement was not reached in only a few areas, including insistence by New Zealand for access to Canadian, US and Japanese dairy markets; the length of patent protection for advanced new drugs (five to 12 years) before generic copies could be produced; Australian demands for a larger quota for US sugar imports; Japanese refusal to open up its rice market; and a minimum local content in motor vehicles. Canada reportedly made an offer for a tariff-rate quota for dairy imports that was acceptable to all countries except New Zealand. The Maui talks showed again that MANYB countries expect more in free trade benefits to their exporters than they are prepared to concede to more import competition, the same attitude that stalled out the WTO Doha Round. The next steps are complicated by pending elections in Canada and the US, although trade minister Fast said the government would continue to negotiate even during the election campaign


The takeover of CWB LTD by G3 Global Grain Group was completed July 31. The CWB name will be dropped and the business will now be known as G3 Canada Ltd. G3 Global, a joint venture of Bunge Canada and the Saudi Arabian sovereign investment fund SALIC, acquired 50.1% of CWB equity for $250 million. After assets of CWB are combined with certain Bunge properties in Quebec, G3 Canada will have seven primary elevators in western Canada including four recently built or under construction and four in Quebec, and port terminals at Quebec City, Trois Riveieres and Thunder Bay; also two new Great Lakes grain ships, approximately 200 km of short-line rail track in Saskatchewan. and a fleet of grain hopper cars. Remaining interest is held in trust for grain farmers, who will gain trust units at the rate of $5 per tonne of grain delivered since the 2013-14 crop year. G3 has an option to buy out the trust in 2022 at fair market value. The CWB commercialization process is complete a year before it was mandated in the revised Canadian Wheat Board Act which removed its 75-year monopoly.


The Pacific Coast Canola crush plant in Washington state, 84% owned by Legumex Walker, appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy. AgCountry Farm Credit Services, which heads a syndicate of lenders owed $55 million, called its loan and was expected to take over the plant, built at a cost of over $100 million. It has been unable to arrange alternate financing. Negative crush margins caused by high seed prices drained its cash and it operated at a loss for most of the time since it opened. Legumex said the canola plant’s failure will not affect its special crops business. Its shares on the TSE dropped from $2.45 to as low as 82c before closing at $1.


The Saskatchewan agriculture department’s crop report for the week ended July 27 indicated a small but quite significant improvement in crop conditions from recent rains. It said 60% of spring wheat, 52% of winter wheat, 35% of durum, 62% of barley, 56% of canola and 46% of lentils were in good or excellent condition. A month earlier the good/excellent rating was 52% for spring wheat, 45% for winter wheat, 53% for barley, 46% for canola and 40% for lentils. Topsoil moisture also greatly improved to 7% surplus, 62% adequate, 25% short and 6% very short. Meanwhile the Alberta agriculture department estimated average yield at 34.2 bushels per acre for spring wheat (51.8 last year), 33.4 for durum (48.1), 50.1 for barley (54.2), 27.6 for canola (32.2) and 32.2 for peas (31.7). These yields are generally 25-30% under the 5-year average. Good/excellent rating averaged for all crops was 30.2%, up slightly from 29.7% a week earlier.


A study at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina found that non-farmer investors own about 837,000 acres in Saskatchewan, compared to 52,000 acres in 2002. It did not explore ownership by country of residence, so did not provide data on foreign ownership. Investor-owned land represents 1.4% of the province’s total. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has 14% of all investor-owned land or 115,000 acres, purchased from Assiniboia Capital Partners in 2013 for $128 million.


The CWB crop tour July 22-24 estimated average prairie spring wheat yield at 38.9 bushels per acre compared to 45.7 last year, durum at 27.8 vs 40.9 and canola at 29.3 vs 34.4. Based on Statistics Canada’s acreage estimates production would be 18.14 million tonnes of spring wheat, 4.19 of durum and 12.49 of canola. These appear to be the first realistic quantification of drought impact on yields and production, and may still be high. Even if moisture conditions continue to improve, these estimates should be considered the high end of probable results. Low carry-in of most crops from the 2014-15 crop year will result in lower 2015-16 supply than any current credible estimate. However prices in the new crop year will be influenced more by US and world prices and the dollar exchange rate than by western Canadian supply, except in the few crops (lentils, flax, possibly peas) where Canadian availability is a large part of world supply.


A bill was introduced on July 23 in the US Senate by seven sponsors from both parties to address the country of origin (COOL) trade dispute with Canada and Mexico, after weeks of inaction since its agriculture committee recommended unconditional repeal. The Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling & Trade Enhancement Act would eliminate the existing mandatory provision for beef, pork and chicken and substitute a voluntary version with very similar features. Processors and retailers would be allowed to use the present label format to identify meat by the animal’s origin. Agriculture minister Ritz and trade minister Fast immediately responded with a statement to the effect that the proposed revision would still violate WTO trade rules and that Canada will not accept a voluntary COOL. The law must be repealed in its entirety to prevent imposition of retaliatory duties. US organizations which were instrumental in the passage of the existing law also objected, urging members to lobby their Senators.


The federal government announced that the usual tax deferral for forced sale of cattle due to the drought is being initiated. A list of designated regions in the four western provinces has been released in which livestock producers facing feed shortages can defer income tax on part of sales of breeding livestock for a year. However proceeds are only partly offset. In order to defer income, a breeding herd must be reduced by at least 15%. At the 15% level, 30% of income from forced sales can be deferred into the next tax year. If the reduction is 30% or more, 90% can be deferred.


Agriculture Canada, in a monthly supply-demand report July 22, gave its latest estimates of 2015 Canadian crop yield and production, but they appeared to make an insufficient allowance for the impact of drought in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its yield and production estimates: non-durum wheat, 44.6 bushels per acre and 21.90 million tonnes; durum 33.9 and 5.19 million; barley 57.0 and 6.90 million; oats 77.0 and 3.20 million; canola 36.2 and 14.30 million; flax 21.0 and 950,000. Corresponding 2014 results: non-durum wheat, 47.3 bushels per acre and 24.09 million tonnes; durum 40.9 and 5.20 million; barley 61.9 and 7.12 million; oats 83.7 and 2.91 million; canola 39.0 and 15.56 million; flax 20.70 and 847,000. While the figures are for all Canada, such yields are very unlikely to be reached due to drought conditions. Statistics Canada will issue its first crop production report based on a farmer survey on August 21.


Corn and soybean crops in Ontario are behind normal development due to late planting and lack of heat. Crop progress varies widely according to planting date but latest corn is 18” high and soybeans have not canopied. A bumper crop of first-cut hay is being taken off. Warmer weather in the week of July 20 may help.


Canadian domestic canola crush for the week ended July 15 jumped to as 168,513 tonnes, apparently from the opening of he new Cargill crush plant at Camrose. Throughput was the high fro the crop year to date, up from the prior week's 124,637. The four-week average is 135,231. Cumulative crush for the crop year to date is 6.94 million tonnes, 5% above 6.64 in the year-ago week. The Cargill facility, which has a capacity of 850,000 tonnes a year, is running at almost full capacity.


Alberta and Saskatchewan weekly crop reports pointed to slight improvement in crop and moisture conditions during the week of July 13. The Saskatchewan report said topsoil moisture was 1% surplus, 44% adequate, 36% short and 19% very short compared to 33% adequate, 45% short and 22% very short the week before. However the overall crop outlook continues to show the drought's effects with spring wheat 51% good or excellent. durum 26%, barley 49%, canola 45% and peas 39%. At the start of the growing season June 6 comparable ratings were spring wheat 65%, durum 54%, barley 66%, canola 44%) and peas 69%. The Alberta report said widespread showers brought limited drought relief to some districts but the overall moisture and crop situation was only slightly improved. Spring wheat was rated 32% good or excellent (30% a week ago), barley 30% (27%), canola 25% (21%), peas 38% (37%).


The US agriculture department issued its monthly supply-demand report on July 10, generally with less favorable changes in production, use and carryover than analysts expected. The US wheat production estimate was raised to 2.150 billion bushels from 2.120 last month, 6% above 2.030 billion in 2014-15. Wheat exports for the current year were raised to 950 million bu from 925 last month and 855 last year. US wheat carryover was estimated at 842 million bu, up from 814 last month and 753 last year for a very high stocks to use ratio of 38.5%. The corn production number was trimmed to 13.530 billion from 13.630 last month, down from 14.220 last year. Corn carryover was projected at 1.600 billion vs 1.770 last month and 1.850 last year, reducing stocks to use to 11.6% from 13.0%. USDA raised its soybean crop estimate to 3.885 billion bushels from last month's 3.850 and 3.970 billion last year. Exports at 1.770 billion were unchanged from last month but below 1.820 in '14-15. Soybean carryover at the end of '15-16 is expected to be 425 million bu, down from 475 last month but sharply higher than 255 at the end of '14-15. USDA did not seem to compensate adequately for lower wheat prospects in western Canada from the drought. It put the Canadian wheat crop at 27.50 million tonnes vs 29.00 last month and 29.30 last year. The current figure is at least 5 to 8 million tonnes too high. Combined US and Canadian HRS wheat production was implied at 1.574 billion bu vs 1.632 last year but is more likely to be 1.4 billion or less, reducing export availability and carryover considerably and improving the price outlook. Projected '15-16 US imports ('14-15 in brackets), million bu: wheat 130 (144), barley 25 (24) and oats 95 (107).


The weekly crop report for Saskatchewan showed moisture conditions to have somewhat stabilized in the week ended July 6, but the situation remains very adverse. Province-wide topsoil moisture was rated 33% adequate, 45% short and 22% very short. A week earlier it was 32% adequate, 48% short and 20% very short. Per cent short or very short by district: southeast 57%, southwest 88%, west-central 79%, northeast 29%, northwest 83%. Spring cereals are 39% headed and canola is 55% in bloom. Crop condition ratings were not given this week. Weather forecasts for all of western Canada for the next week continue to predict temperatures in high 20s to above 30C in all areas. High humidity will increase local thunderstorm and shower chances, however no general rain is predicted.


Something is holding western Canadian cattlemen back from herd expansion, with cattle numbers the lowest since 1993. Cattle slaughter statistics for the first six months of 2015 do not show much sign of holding heifers back for the future cow herd. Canadian cattle slaughter for the first six months was 1.212 million head, down 10% from 1.350 a year earlier. Steer slaughter was 9% lower and heifer kill 10% lower. Cow kill was down 15%. Live cattle exports to the US were 25% lower at 460,000, with slaughter cattle down 49% at 104,000 and feeder cattle off 3% to 218,500. Exports of live cows and bulls, in high demand for the hamburger trade, were down 23% at 130,000. Combined exports and slaughter (marketings) were 1.67 million head compared to 1.96 million in the first half of 2014. Exports of beef and veal to the US were up 7% at 172 million lbs while exports to all countries were up just 5%.


The drought area of western Canada covers most of the western ranch country and lack of pasture and hay is posing very serious issues. There has been no first cut of hay in many districts. The hay shortage has already raised prices to double from a year ago and they are still climbing. Some grass cattle are being fed grain because there is no forage. Cattle and calves are going into feedlots early and at light weights. The summer grazing months are normally the time of lowest-cost weight gains.


The Saskatchewan and Alberta weekly crop reports for the week ended June 28-29 showed rapid and general erosion in crop potential as the drought worsened. In Saskatchewan the good/excellent rating for spring wheat was 52% (57% two weeks earlier), durum 29% (41%), canola 46% (47%), lentils 40 (47%)%, flax 39% (51%), mustard 18% (33%). Province wide soil moisture was 32% adequate (48% a week ago, 45% 2 weeks ago), 48% short (38%, 35%) and 20% very short (14%, 17%). Moisture was considered adequate across 7% of the southwest, 14% west central, 16% northwest, 37% east central, 52% southeast and 70% northeast. Adequate moisture on hay land averaged 23%. Conditions worsened despite scattered rain. Cereals are heading and canola blooming prematurely in most areas. Alberta Agriculture reported the average of all crops rated good or excellent down 8% to 30% in a week, the lowest since 2009. Good/excellent ratings for spring wheat dropped 10% to 33%, barley 10% to 29% and canola 6% to 25%. The slight improvement from mid-June rain has now been entirely lost. Good/excellent topsoil moisture ratings dropped 8% to 21% while the poor category rose 13% to 43%. Subsoil moisture is rated only 25% good/excellent and 29% poor.


Statistics Canada on June 30 issued its annual seeded acreage report, based on conditions as of June 11. The seriousness of prairie-wide frost and Alberta-Sask drought may not have been clear to farmers who were surveyed, so that final numbers may vary. However the report put total major crop acreage at a new record of about 64.5 million acres and summerfallow in the west at a record low. Canola area was put at 19.78 million acres, down 2% from 20.26 in 2014; area was a four-year low and slightly under the five-year average. All-wheat acreage increased 1.3% to 23.16 million with non-durum spring wheat down slightly but durum up 21% to 5.75 million, the highest in five years. Winter wheat area, due to adverse fall conditions was down 46% to 595,000 acres in the west. Pulse and special crop area showed big year-to-year swings. Lentils set a record at 3.87 million acres, up 24% from 2014 and 48% from 2013. Field peas were basically unchanged at 3.7 million acres. Corn area in Manitoba was 230,000 acres vs 260,000 last year. Soybean acreage in western Canada rose to 1.63 million from 1.54 last year and 1.22 million in 2013, slower expansion than some expected.


The US agriculture department also reported planted area on June 30. US corn was estimated at 88.9 million acres, down 2% from 2014 and the lowest since 2010. Soybean area was a record high 85.1 million, up 2%. US all wheat area was 56.1 million, down 1%, with winter wheat at 40.6 million down 4%. Spring wheat was estimated at 13.5 million acres, up 4%. including 1.95 million of durum, up 40% from last year. Prior to the report, trade estimates for corn were 89.3 million, soybeans 85.2 and all wheat 55.9 million. Area of minor crops important to Canada, (2014 in brackets), million acres: oats 3.06 (2.72); barley 3.41 (2.98); canola 1.57 (1.71); flax 420,000 (311,000). Of all oats area, 1.22 million acres are expected to be harvested for grain vs 1.03 in 2014.


The USDA acreage and grain stocks reports triggered a stunning rally in Chicago futures. July corn closed up 30 cents, soybeans 53 cents (the expiring spot month did not have a daily limit), Chicago wheat 32 to 34 cents. Chicago traded above $6, briefly higher than Kansas City wheat which normally carries a premium. Minneapolis wheat gained 20 cents. Most closing prices for near months were highs for 2015. Trade at the CME Group set an all-time daily record of 2.87 million contracts, triple the month's average. Variations between the USDA numbers and pre-report estimates did not come close to explaining such a sudden surge after months of languid trade dominated by weak exports, a strong US dollar, aggressive pricing by competing exporters and movement of speculative funds out of agricultural contracts (partly because of low volatility). Several issues besides the USDA report appeared to be in play, particularly ideas that excess moisture is seriously damaging US corn and soybean crops. Some traders interpreted the grain stocks reports as showing a higher rate of corn and soybean use than USDA has projected. However the chances appeared low that new and higher ranges were established in US ag futures. Markets are weighed down by large world surpluses and a sustained rally depends on substandard production in other parts of the world.


Recent rain in Alberta did not improve the drought situation by much. Topsoil moisture for the week ended June 23 was 30% poor, 41% fair, 26% good and 3% excellent, basically unchanged from the prior week. Spring wheat was rated 43% good or excellent, barley 39%, canola 31%, oats 36% and peas 51%. Average for all crops was 38% good or excellent vs 41% a week earlier. A year ago at this date wheat was rated 81% good/excellent and canola 82%.


There could not be more of a contrast between too much rainfall in practically all US farm states and not enough across Alberta and western Saskatchewan. Hot, dry weather is predicted to continue through the week of June 29. Environment Canada issued a heat advisory for the weekend of June 27. Excessively wet conditions in the US corn belt more likely to improve than dryness in western Canada. Canadian and US futures markets rallied strongly in the week ended June 26 strictly on the weather situation and speculative short covering.


The canola market during the week of June 22 was increasingly drought driven. Consecutive contract highs were posted in near months with all traded months well over $500 per tonne. Exporters and domestic users are trying to lock in prices for both old and new crop, and speculative shorts were covering aggressively. The inverse in canola is shrinking. Moisture conditions are relatively better in eastern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba. These are high yield areas but cover only about 35-40% of western Canada’s crop area. The rest is in trouble if rain does not come at once. Forecasts through the first days of July were unchanged with extreme heat and dryness for the weekend, normal or higher temperatures later in the period with no indication of any wet weather or low pressure system to follow.


The Saskatchewan weekly crop report put soil moisture province-wide as of June 25 at 46% adequate, 38% short and 14% very short. However conditions vary widely by region. Rated with adequate moisture were southeast 46%, northeast 81%, northwest 59%, east-central 63%, southwest 21%, west-central 27%. Crop condition ratings were not given this week.


The International Grains Council lowered its estimate of 2015-16 world wheat production in its June 25 monthly report to 711 million tonnes from 715 in May, 3% under 721 million in 2014-15. Projected world wheat use was lowered to 713 million tonnes from 715 last month, with carryover unchanged from May at 149 million, just 4 million less than at the end of 2014-15. Coarse grain production was estimated at 1.255 billion tonnes vs 1.253 last month and 1.290 last year. Coarse grain carryover is unchanged from May at 226 million, down slightly from 240 million last year. Changes in the outlook were not enough for any price effect.


High temperatures and low rain chances were forecast for the entire prairie region into next week. Highs in the 30s C were predicted late this week and into the weekend. Only scattered thundershowers are expected with no general rain event. Crop conditions vary vastly across the west, with record yields possible in Manitoba’s Red River valley but canola near write-off in the drier parts of Alberta. Most crops seeded early are hanging on, but high heat and low humidity predicted for this week will be very hard on these stands. Meanwhile, the US NOAA weather service reported that May 2015 was the wettest month in history (of any month) in some agricultural states. Oklahoma and Texas got 5 times normal rain, with corn states at 2 to 3 times.


A light season is expected for the port of Churchill, at about 500,000 tonnes. The port will be ready for its first ship in late July, about two weeks later than usual due to light bookings. The port handled 540,000 last year and over 600,000 in 2013. CWB Ltd, once the major shipper, is not using the port this year to maximize volume through its Lakehead facilities.


Saskatchewan and Alberta crop reports for the week ended June 18 showed slight improvement in the topsoil moisture situation. In Saskatchewan moisture was rated 45% adequate and 52% short or very short, compared to the previous week's 40% adequate and 57% short or very short. Spring wheat was rated 57% good or excellent, winter wheat 40%, durum 41%, canola 47%, barley 59%, all slightly improved from the prior week. The Alberta weekly report said topsoil moisture compared to the prior week was 30% short (43%), 42% fair (37%), 26% good (19%) and 2% excellent (1%). Spring wheat was rated 46% good/excellent, barley 42%, canola 32%, oats 38%, peas 55%, lentils 54%. Rain has been very spotty with the Peace River bloc, northeast Saskatchewan and western Manitoba getting up to 20 mm. Most of Manitoba has excellent to excess moisture.


Temperatures were well below normal over the June 12 weekend with scattered in northern Alberta and central Saskatchewan. Rain amounts were mostly light and highly variable with the driest parts of Alberta and southern Saskatchewan missed. Private forecasts for the next 10 days are for below normal temperatures with highs barely above 20C but good rain chances in the June 17-22 time frame. As of June 10 topsoil moisture in Saskatchewan was rated 40% adequate, 42% short and 15% very short, compared to 51% adequate, 37% short and 9% very short a week earlier. Crop development has slowed in some areas due to dryness, however most crops are rated in good condition. In Alberta surface moisture was 43% poor and 37% fair as of June 10, vs 30% and 43% a week earlier. The good/very good rating dropped to 20% from 27%.


The US agriculture department's monthly supply demand report for June included uniformly bearish global estimates for wheat, coarse grains and oilseeds for 2015-16. However for wheat at least it does not appear to have factored in potential impact of the El Nino climate event, which tends to bring drought to Australian wheat areas. El Nino may also be responsible for worsening dry conditions in western Canada, but USDA did not lower Canadian crop projections either. It raised the world wheat production estimate to 721.6 million tonnes from 718.9 last month, coarse grain output to 1.276 billion tonnes and world oilseeds to 531.8 million. Projections of consumption show little growth and ending stocks are forecast to remain historically burdensome at the end of 2015-16. World oilseed carryover will exceed 100 million tonnes for the first time. Its July monthly report will give the first estimates for US crop acreage, yields and production based on field surveys.


Some western grain companies announced they will not accept delivery of any crops treated with Manipulator, a new growth regulator that reduces straw length in wheat and increases yield. Importing countries have not established tolerances for Manipulator residue. Other companies will require producers to state whether wheat offered for delivery has been treated. The chemical product is registered for use in Canada but US approval is still pending.


Frost and dryness have all but eliminated the possibility of recent-average yields in the 2015 canola crop and production in the range of the last few years, according to Morris W Dorosh, AGRIWEEK'S publisher. Canola acreage, projected at 19.4 million acres in the April seeeding intentions report, has been overestimated. After losses to frost and abandonment harvested area will be in a range not seen since 2011 or 2010, when it was 18.86 and 16.82 million respectively. (Statistics Canada will issue its seeded acreage report June 30). The general and worsening moisture shortage across the west will soon rule out any chance of average yields, if it has not already, regardless of how favorable weather is later. In the best case, 18.5 million acres will be harvested with a 30-bushels average yield for 2015 production of approximately 12.6 million tonnes, the smallest since 2010. With carryover from 2014-15, canola supply in the new crop year may be little more than 13 million or less than 75% of 2014-15 disappearance. In this scenario price rationing would have to start even before the 2015 harvest. Some users of canola end products, especially oil, will continue regardless of price. But most will have a strong incentive to substitute soybean and other more plentiful and lower-cost oils. The price range for canola seed during 2015-16 will be determined almost entirely by the relationship that the market maintains between the prices of canola and soybean oils. During most of 2014-15 this premium was quite small, at times zero. Canola oil supply was ample, leading to large-scale use for biodiesel, a very low-level application for a premium oil. Importers will compete with domestic crushers for a much reduced canola seed supply, but in an environment of record-large US, South American and world soybean supplies.

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