Grain market participants were eagerly awaiting the April 24 release by Statistics Canada of its March Intentions of Principal Field Crop Areas report. Expectations were for a sizable jump in total wheat plantings compared with a year ago, when excessive spring rain prevented producers across the Canadian Prairies from seeding all the acres they intended. In 2011, Canadian farmers were only able to seed 21,589,000 acres of wheat, significantly less than the 24,723,800 acres intended for planting as reported in March 2011.

Pre-report trade estimates indicated this year’s more favorable spring conditions were likely to lead to sizable planting increases: 9% for all wheat, up to 23,400,000 acres, and a 12% jump for durum to 4,500,000 acres. On April 12, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in its Canada: Grains and Oilseeds Outlook, preliminarily forecast the area seeded to all wheat in Canada for harvest this year at 9,680,000 hectares (23,919,000 acres), up 11% from 8,737,000 hectares (21,589,000 acres) in 2011. A.A.F.C. forecast durum plantings at 1,840,000 hectares (4,547,000 acres), up 13% from 1,625,000 hectares (4,015,000 acres) a year ago. The ministry forecast wheat (excluding durum) plantings at 7,840,000 hectares (19,373,000 acres), up 10% from 7,112,000 hectares (17,574,000 acres) in 2011. A.A.F.C. said, in its report, “More specifically, the area seeded to winter wheat increased by 22%, while the area seeded to spring wheat is forecast to increase by 9%.” The A.A.F.C.’s grain and oilseeds report said a factor influencing the number of acres that ultimately will be planted in wheat was competition from oilseed crops such as canola, which currently have more favorable market conditions.