Source: The Canadian Wheat Board

The Canadian Wheat Board has increased its 2010-11 export target by almost two million tonnes over mid-summer projections, but remains challenged by a lower-grade crop resulting from poor weather conditions during the 2010 growing season.

In its annual Grain Marketing Report, mailed to farmers across Western Canada, the CWB has announced an export target of 17.4 million tonnes, down a million tonnes from the last two crop years. The report is available at www.cwb.ca/grainmatters.

"Grain prices have moved to relatively high levels, which is good news for farmers with grain in their bins," CWB Chief Operating Officer Ward Weisensel said. "However, the crop also presents a number of marketing challenges, as we work to familiarize customers with the positive intrinsic qualities of the grain produced on the Prairies this year."

This year's CWB marketing program targets exports of 11.8 million tonnes of wheat, four million tonnes of durum and 1.5 million tonnes of bulk barley. Barley exports are expected to consist largely of feed barley, given international prices that have been competitive with domestic feed barley values, as well as very low supplies of selectable malting barley.

Extremely wet growing and harvest seasons across most of the Prairies resulted in below-average production and quality for wheat, durum and barley. Production of the six major western Canadian grains was 42.3 million tonnes, down more than 20 per cent from 54.3 million tonnes last year. Spring wheat grades are the lowest since 2004, a stark contrast from the previous four years, when excellent crop quality resulted in at least three-quarters of the crop falling into the top two grades. Meanwhile, the quality profiles for durum and barley are among the lowest ever seen.

Wheat prices in general have been buoyed by a drop in U.S. corn production, which has significantly boosted the international feed market. Feed wheat prices for western Canadian farmers have more than doubled from last year, with pooled returns currently projected at $175.27 per tonne in Saskatchewan – up 120 per cent from 2009-10 payments. Lack of exports from Russia and Ukraine (normally large suppliers of lower-grade grain) has also provided price support, as have production and quality problems in Australia.

For 2010-11, the CWB currently projects farmers will receive spring-wheat prices that are approximately 50-per-cent higher than last year: about $265 per tonne for top-quality spring wheat and about $193 for the more prevalent No. 3 grade (Saskatchewan farmgate). For durum, top-quality grain is expected to bring about $232 in Saskatchewan (up about 55 per cent from last year) and $190 for the No.3 grade (up about 14 per cent from last year). Feed barley pool returns are projected at about $160 per tonne in Saskatchewan and malting barley at $182 per tonne. A complete list of estimated returns for all provinces can be found on cwb.ca, under "Farmers" and "Pool Return Outlooks". An updated Pool Return Outlook (PRO) will be released on January 27.

The CWB has taken a number of steps in recognition of farmers' challenges this year. A special pricing program has been introduced for feed wheat, a new premium delivery contract program has been rolled out for top-quality wheat, programs are in place for fusarium-affected wheat, and new measures were announced for farmers who are unable to fulfill their signed contracts.

Controlled by western Canadian farmers, the CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. One of Canada's biggest exporters, the Winnipeg-based organization sells grain to more than 70 countries and returns all sales revenue, less marketing costs, to farmers.