Canadian wheat exports running hot

Peter McMeekin, Grain Brokers Australia January 31, 2024

Vancouver is home to several of Canada’s bulk grain export facilities. Photo: G3 Terminal

CANADIAN wheat shipments, excluding durum, through licensed export facilities are running well ahead of the average of the past three years and close to record pace this season, according to export data released last week. However, since the Canadian export season commenced on August 1 last year, total grain and oilseed shipments are tracking well behind the previous season’s pace, with canola the prime laggard.

The Canadian Grain Commission data released last week was for the export year’s 25th week, which ended January 21. It put total grain and oilseed exports season to date for the 15 commodities that make up Canada’s “Principal Field Crops” at 21.32 million tonnes (Mt), 11 percent behind the 23.95Mt shipped in the same period a season earlier, with lower supply and geopolitical uncertainty in global grain markets the primary drivers.

Wheat exports excluding durum in week 25 totalled 383,000t, fractionally lower week on week. Nonetheless, that took total exports thus far in the 2023-24 to 10.17Mt, 6.7pc ahead of the previous season’s pace and 22.2pc higher than the average of the past three years. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) left their 2023-24 export estimate unchanged in this month’s update at 20Mt after raising it by 2Mt in December. This forecast is still 3pc below the 20.6Mt shipped in the 2022-23 season.

Exports in eight of the past ten weeks have exceeded the pace required to reach the AAFC export estimate, and a repeat in week 26 would push shipments in the first half of the 2023-24 export program past 10.5Mt, suggesting that export shipments of 21Mt are on the cards. However, the average pace for the past five seasons has 44.7pc of total exports completed by the end of week 25. While this projects forward to a total export program of 22.74Mt by July 31, domestic supply constraints and logistics bottlenecks will render that volume highly unlikely.

Durum exports were slightly higher week on week at 101,000t but are running 39.3pc behind last
season’s week 25 pace at 1.52Mt. While this still puts shipments on track to meet the AAFC’s current 2023-24 durum export estimate of 3.2Mt, it is well behind the pace in 2022-23, when total exports were 5.05Mt.

AAFC pegged domestic wheat consumption, including durum, for the current season at 8.59Mt, 1.7pc
lower than in 2022-23. Food, seed and industrial use are expected to be down slightly at 3.4Mt, as is feed use at 4.15Mt, leaving a carry-out estimate of 3.95Mt, 8pc higher than the 2022-23 carry-out of 3.66Mt.

Canola, barley shipments sluggish

With just one cargo of 34,600t loaded out in the week ending January 21, total canola exports in the first 25 weeks of the export year reached 2.72Mt, 1.39Mt or 33.8pc lower than the same period in 2022-23.
Domestic use of canola in 2023-24 is expected to be slightly higher, with a record canola crush of 10.5Mt forecast as the sector expands to serve US demand from the renewable energy market. The canola crush in December totalled 943,300t, well ahead of the 811,900t average for the past three years, bringing the total for the first five months of the season to 4.58Mt, 14pc higher year on year and 12.7pc ahead of the three-year average.

Barley exports season to date total just 917,800t, 43.6pc lower than the 1.63Mt shipped in the first 25
weeks of the 2022-23 season. Monthly exports have been poor, except for November at 390,000t, with China the leading destination, taking around 90pc of the total. This volume is significantly lower than Canadian barley exports for the same period in each of the past three years, as the full impact of the lifting of the ban on Australian barley exports into China hits home for the Canadian farmer. Malting barley exports in the season’s first four months were 184,000t, up 11pc year on year, and 4pc above the five-year average.

Domestic consumption of barley in 2023-24 is expected to be 3.2pc higher than the previous season at
6.16Mt. The feedgrain market holds the biggest share, with use unchanged year on year at 5.6Mt. Feed
barley prices early this month in the Lethbridge, Alberta, feedlot region dropped below C$320/t ($A362/t), their lowest level since April 2020. Food, seed and industrial use, which includes malting barley for the brewing sector, is forecast to be up from 115,000t in 2022-23 to 319,000t this season.
While oat production in 2023-24 is down 50pc season on season, AAFC is still forecasting exports of
2.5Mt in 2023-24 thanks to a higher-than-average carry-in of 1.3Mt. Total exports of 770,000t to the end of week 25 are running 10.4pc ahead of last year’s pace, with the US, as usual, the primary destination with around 75pc of the total. The export pace suggests a total of only 1.6Mt by July 31, but the shipments to the US typically pick up in the back end of the season as domestic supplies south of the 49th Parallel dry up.

Peas up, lentils down

The main pulse exports are dry peas and lentils, with exports of 1.15Mt and 500,000t respectively running 6.7pc higher and 51.4pc lower than the same period in 2022-23. Dry pea exports are slated to be 17pc lower this season at 3.1Mt, with China the primary destination, and lentil exports are pegged at 1.9Mt, 26.7pc lower than 2022-23, with India and Turkey the key homes. Lower production is the primary driver in both cases.

In the row-crop arena, soybean exports are running a smidge ahead of last season at 2.93Mt against a total year forecast of 4.9Mt, 16pc above the final 2022-23 number. On the other hand, corn exports are currently 13.7pc behind the 2022-23 at 520,000t. This is well behind the pace required to meet the AAFC export projection of 1.85Mt, itself 30pc lower than the prior season. Domestic consumption is the big corn driver, with food, seed and industrial use of 5.4Mt and feed use of 9.94Mt, both expected to be higher year on year for a total of 15.35Mt. Production of 15.1Mt is augmented with imports from the US of 2.5Mt to meet total demand.



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