Doing Your Homework for Selling High Vomi Durum

There’s a big durum crop coming off in Western Canada, but wet conditions have resulted in high disease levels in much of it.

The Statistics Canada report released Tuesday pegged total Canadian durum production at 7.3 million tonnes, up from 5.4 million in 2015 and 5.2 million in 2014.

Meanwhile, last week the Ministry of Agriculture in Saskatchewan — where most Canadian durum is grown — said 51 percent of the durum samples reported so far fell in the lowest two grades: 4 or 5 Canada Western Amber Durum (CWAD).

So despite the big production, the market might have to stretch supplies of exportable quality durum to maintain the three-year export average of 4.7 million tonnes.

“Carryout could triple overall, but within that carryout, the milling grades are really dropping fast, to the point where we would have less milling quality than we would normally export,” says Dwight Nichol, grain marketing consultant with DLN Agventures, based at Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan.

And that means marketing this crop will require some homework.

“The best advice I can give anybody right now is to sample very thoroughly, keep a lot of samples and to shop around. Make sure you know what you have,” he says.

More elevators are starting to not only do visual analysis for fusarium but are testing for deoxynivalenol (DON) to understand actual vomitoxin levels. Some buyers have introduced tiered pricing within the 3 CWAD grade based on DON levels.

Citing 3 CWAD bids ranging from $5.35 to $6.05 per bushel, Nichol stresses the importance of shopping around. As an example, he says he brought the same sample to seven different buyers —the elevator vomitoxin test results varied from 1.6 to 5.4 percent in the same sample.

“The variability here makes doing your homework almost as important as deciding when to sell. I think the spreads and the dollars made or lost there are going to be just as important as the movement of the overall market,” says Nichol.

With historically large spreads expected between high and low grades, he notes this might also be a year where cleaning durum could pencil out.

Here’s our conversation on durum harvest results so far, marketing strategy and more:

Throwback to 2014: Quality Problems Send Durum Prices Soaring

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