Western Canadian organic crop falls victim to wet, cool fall

According to one trader, organic feed wheat prices are poised come down considerably in the coming weeks as more downgraded wheat enters the market. Photo: iStock

By Ashley Robinson
Glacier FarmMedia staff 

CNS Canada – Organic crops across Western Canada found themselves left sitting in the fields throughout September and into October as cold, wet and snowy weather hit the region leaving them in a similar situation to their conventional counterparts.

“(Harvest) was delayed quite a bit. We probably saw very limited progress for four to five weeks, but the last week, 10 days we’re starting to see really good harvest progress,” said Scott Shiels with Grain Millers Canada in Yorkton, Sask.

Harvest across the Prairies was stalled in September after wet, cool weather rolled in, even bringing snow to some parts. Provincial crop reports showed little to no harvest progress for weeks on end. However, conditions improved during mid-October and farmers were able to get back into the fields.

For most of the year organic and conventional crop markets operate in their own spaces, with different factors influencing them. However, during harvest that usually changes and this year it was compounded due to the unseasonable weather. Farmers further south were able to get most of their crops off before the weather shifted, but their northern counterparts found themselves waiting to harvest the majority of their crops.

Around Yorkton, Shiels said the organic harvest was basically a “mirror image” this year of the conventional harvest. Organic farmers found their harvest progress stalled just like conventional farmers with roughly the same amount of crop left in the fields.

The crops left out though varied. While most conventional farmers left canola crops in the fields and rushed to get cereals harvested before the cool and wet weather, organic farmers left crops like flax out and harvested most cereals before.

Down around Mossbank in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, organic and conventional producers were able to get most of their crops off before the weather changed.

“There is some people just finishing up but mainly we’re 90 per cent done in our area here. But (we’re) starting to find from further north we’re getting some samples coming in that are being feed (quality),” said Jason Breault with RW Organics in Mossbank.

The wet and cool weather has led to downgraded quality for some organic crops. Like their conventional counterparts some of the organic wheat is being downgraded to feed quality. Breault expects organic feed wheat prices could come down quite a bit in the upcoming weeks as more downgraded wheat comes to market.

However, the weather hasn’t had much of an effect on organic crop prices yet, as it has with conventional prices. According to Shiels, organic buyers will still need a few more weeks to evaluate the quality of the crop before the market moves.

“(The weather) brought us back to market maybe a little sooner than we were going to be but it didn’t really bring the prices up,” he said. Grain Millers had been booked up for months with pre-sold contracts, but the wet and cool and weather forced them to buy sooner than expected.

Heading into the future, Shiels thinks flax prices could strengthen in the spring as the crop quality for later maturing flax crops won’t be as good. The wheat market could also see a bump he thinks as the milling market prefers high quality protein which the downgraded wheat won’t have.

“It’s all about the timing and the harvest. And I think it’ll shake out over the next month to six weeks and then you’ll see some different patterns emerge likely from there,” he said.