Rain in the east, drought in the west affecting organic crops

Close up Young seed germination and plant growing with rain water drop Precipitation amounts have run the gamut, with many areas not having enough and some areas having too much. Photo: iStock/Getty Images

By Ashley Robinson
OrganicBiz staff

While organic farmers in Western Canada are praying for rain, their counterparts in Ontario are praying for the land to dry out.

“It’s kind of been stop and go… when things get just close enough to being dry we get more moisture,” said Andrew St. Jean, of Beechwood Organics in Parkhill, Ont.

In Western Canada rain fell just before the Victoria Day weekend, however large areas missed out on the moisture.

A couple of places, fairly large areas, got some showers and kind of just what the doctor ordered. – Scott Shiels

“Organic things are germinating. But if they don’t get rain here soon they’re gonna definitely go backwards… I just went by the field today and (my crop) is poking up,” said Jason Breault of RW Organics at Mossbank, Sask.

Further north the situation is better, in the Yorkton, Sask. area fields received rain but more moisture is still needed.

“It’s a little on the drier side but there’s been some rain in the last week. A couple of places, fairly large areas, got some showers and kind of just what the doctor ordered,” said Scott Shiels, of Grain Millers Inc. in Yorkton.

While the dry weather has allowed some organic producers in Western Canada to already have seeding wrapped up, things are behind schedule in Ontario. St. Jean estimates that seeding progress is half of where it was last year at this time.

“It’s been a slow planting season. Some areas are really wet and they haven’t been able to do much of anything,” he said.

While seeding progress in Ontario hasn’t been the best story for producers, the markets are another story. Good domestic demand has led to a strong market for organic crops. Organic feed crop prices have been rising due to growth in the organic pig sector.

In Western Canada organic prices are starting to level off. Most processors are filled up and there aren’t a lot of bids out for 2017 crop.

“It’s keeping the prices pretty quiet. Looking into the New Year prices look strong, nothing really lighting the world on fire but consistent,” Shiels said.

Homestead Organics closure having ongoing affect in Ontario

Ontario organic buyers are starting to see slightly increased interest from organic producers in eastern Ontario following Homestead Organics closure in April.

“We have fielded a few phone calls from that area. I think right now more will go Quebec direction than they will this way. But time will tell,” St. Jean said.

Beechwood covers an area six hours west of where Homestead Organics was located. Homestead had locations in Sebringville, Berwick and Morrisburg.

“We deal with some customers from that area, but I don’t see their being a big push our way or a big impact on our side of the business,” St. Jean said.

At Thompsons Ltd. in southern Ontario, they have fielded calls for organic crop bids from as far as Nova Scotia. While it would be a long way to deliver the grain, Kim Mayer with Thompsons Ltd. said the Nova Scotia producer was just happy to get a bid.

“We’ve had a few more inquiries with people (having) basically just small amounts of ’17 crop that they (haven’t sold yet),” she said.

St. Jean feels the real impact from the closure won’t be felt until harvest time. He expects Ontario organic buyers could see an increase in interest from producers then.