Analysts predict lucrative contracts for special crops

There could be eye-popping new crop contracts for special crop growers this winter and next spring, industry officials say.

“I fully expect to see some incredible, otherworldly type numbers out there on some of these new crop contracts,” said Kyle Ulmer, a merchandiser with Viterra.

He believes mustard contracts could be as high as 55 to 65 cents per pound.

“Seventy cents is kind of that legendary figure and we’re looking at that today at the beginning of the crop year,” he told delegates attending the virtual 2021 Pulse and Special Crops Convention.

“It’s remarkable.”

Special crops production in 2021 was a disaster. Canaryseed growers harvested an estimated 116,438 tonnes based on a “very sad” average yield of 755 lb. per acre, said Marlene Boersch, managing partner of Mercantile Consulting Venture.

That is about two-thirds of a normal crop.

She is forecasting a maximum export program of 115,000 tonnes, down from the typical 155,000 tonnes.

Mexico and the European Union each take about one-quarter of Canada’s exports.

Canaryseed prices were around 53 cents per lb. at the time of her presentation on Sept. 9, up from 40 cents a month earlier. Boersch said 60 cents per lb. is not out of the question.

David Nobbs, pulse merchant with Purely Canada Foods, agreed with her production numbers and said there is a “definite, definite shortfall” of the crop.

But he said buyers in the European Union are not responding at today’s values, let alone buying at 60 cents. However, he added that Mexican buyers are still interested.

Boersch said Canadian growers planted about 300,000 acres of mustard, down from the five-year average of nearly 400,000 acres.

She believes the average yield is 475 lb. per acre, which is lower than Statistics Canada’s forecast of 591 lb. per acre.

That would result in 60,000 tonnes of production or about 40 percent of a normal crop.

Ulmer said that sounds about right. He noted that mustard is having difficulty competing with canola, especially with crush capacity forecast to increase to 14.5 or 15 million tonnes over the next few years.

“That is a massive, massive demand right in the backyard of these growers,” said Ulmer.

It will be tough for mustard to compete with new crop canola contracts of $15 per bushel or more if growers can produce 35 bu. per acre of the crop.

Ulmer said there are new higher-yielding lines of brown and yellow mustard being developed.

“It’s wonderful and it’s great work but unfortunately we’re still a ways away and that big canola machine keeps coming and putting pressure on acres.”

Boersch is forecasting 37,446 tonnes of sunflower production, well below the five-year average of 65,531 tonnes.

Supply is forecast at 190,000 tonnes, which is 21 percent below the five-year average due to good carryover from the 2020-21 crop.

If that is true, exports could be the same as last year at about 55,000 tonnes, she said.

Robert Deraas, general manager of sunflower and bird food with Scoular Canada, thinks Statistics Canada’s carry-in number of about 125,000 tonnes is incorrect. It is more like 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes.

He expects bird food demand to pick up in fall. Strong global vegetable oil demand is also supporting prices. The only downside is confection demand, which is at about two-thirds of pre-COVID levels.