Less canola, fewer soybeans in StatsCan's preliminary crop production estimates

The satellites say: more wheat and corn, less soy and canola are headed to farmers’ bins this fall.

Statistics Canada released its preliminary crop production estimates on Monday, which are based on a model that includes satellite data, rather than farmer surveys.

“To alleviate stress on farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada relied upon proven satellite technology to model preliminary crop yields and harvests for 2020,” says the agency.

The satellite-based model has been used to produce September yield estimates since 2016, and last year it replaced the survey method to produce the July yield estimates for Manitoba, but this is the first time it’s been used to produce this report nationally.

Precipitation as drier or wetter than average as of July 31, 2020. (Supplied)

The growing season to date has been a challenging one, with severe weather hampering the Alberta crop, and extreme dryness affecting Ontario yields. The weather from August 1 and forward has done a 180 in some areas, as seen in the image.

For the most part, the StatsCan figures are within the range of what analysts were anticipating, with a few notable exceptions:

Wheat production is projected to increase 10.5% year-over-year to 35.7 million tonnes in 2020, given higher anticipated yields (+8.0% to 53.8 bushels per acre) and higher harvested area (+2.3% to 24.4 million acres). This is largely in-line with analysts’ estimates. The durum production estimate, however, exceeded expectations, at 6.9 million tonnes.

Canola production is expected to decline 0.4% to 19.4 million tonnes in 2020, with higher yields (+1.2% to 41.6 bushels per acre) offset by lower harvested area (-1.6% to 20.6 million acres). This is below several industry analyst estimates that puts the canola yield average over 44 bu/acre and production over 20 million tonnes.

Grain corn production is projected to rise 3.9% to 13.9 million tonnes in 2020, with an anticipated increase in yield (+7.5% to 158.2 bushels per acre) offsetting lower harvested area (-3.4% to 3.5 million acres).

Soybean production is projected to decrease 1.4% year over year to 6.0 million tonnes in 2020, as a result of lower harvested area (-12.5% to 4.9 million acres). Yields are expected to increase 12.6% to 44.6 bushels per acre

Oat production is projected to rise 6.1% to 4.5 million tonnes. Harvested area is expected to increase 6.3% to 3.1 million acres, and yields are expected to edge down 0.2% year over year to 94.8 bushels per acre in 2020.

Barley production is expected to rise slightly to 10.5 million tonnes in 2020, with a slight increase in acres and yields (+1.3% to 71.7 bushels per acre).

In pulses, StatsCan published a bearish number for the pea market, projecting just under 5 million tonnes of production with an average yield of 44.3 bu/ac. Lentil production is pegged at 2.8 million tonnes.

StatsCan will publish an updated stocks report on Friday, September 4. The agency will also publish its annual September model-based yield and production estimates on September 14, with final crop production estimates slated for release on December 3, 2020.

You can take a closer look at the yield and production numbers in the August 31 report, here.

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