Provincial harvest eclipses all records

Jodi Schellenberg
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It has been an amazing year for Saskatchewan producers.

It has been a record year for producers in Saskatchewan, with the 2013 crop being 38.4 million tonnes, 40 per cent above the 2012 production.

Statistics Canada says the 2013 crop in Saskatchewan was the largest in the province’s history.

The 2013 crop is 38.4 million tonnes, which is 40 per cent above 2012 production and 48 per cent above the 10-year average, Stats Canada says.

Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said farmers deserve all of the praise.

“I know what it takes to grow a big crop and it takes risk,” he said. “You invest more money in inputs if you are going for a big crop and if you are going for an average one. I am very happy -- It looks like the majority of our producers took that extra risk and were rewarded for it by a huge crop.”

Production for wheat, canola, peas, lentils, chickpeas, oats and flax are all estimated to be above the 10-year average, which the canola crop is estimated to be the largest ever at 8.9 million tonnes, an amazing 37.5 per cent over 2012. 

“It was a record crop in the province of 38.4 million tonnes, which surpasses our growth plan target for the year 2020 by 1.8 million tonnes,” Stewart said.

The producers in the province deserve the credit for the record-breaking year, he said.

“All credit goes to our producers, who faced a late spring and certainly an uncertain growing season and still made the extra investments in their crops,” Stewart said. “What it takes to produce a crop of this magnitude is at personal risk and turned out with a record crop by far.”

The only challenges farmers faced this year were the early spring and cool July weather, Stewart explained, which may have contributed to the amazing year. That combined with a late frost in the fall gave the farmers record-breaking yields.

Stewart farms both grain and cattle at Pense, a community located between Regina and Moose Jaw, and has grown a number of different crops throughout the years.

“I guess I didn’t get very excited until the crop was ready to cut,” Stewart said. “I was very concerned with first of all the late start with seeding -- it was quite late in my area and then July was cool which further delayed crop development a little bit although it turned out to be a tremendous canola crop.

“I was concerned right until the crop was ready to cut and then I got excited in a hurry because I knew it was big,” Stewart added. “I didn’t think it was this big mind you. Personally I didn’t think, and we talked about it in this office, none of us thought we quite hit the 2020 target.”

The numbers are phenomenal, Stewart said. Canola is at a 37 per cent increase from last year, durham wheat is 45 per cent, spring wheat is 52 per cent, oats is 76 per cent, barley is 45 per cent and flax is 53 per cent.

The high yields will most likely have a positive effect in the province.

“I guess the biggest effect is it will contribute greatly to our economy,” Stewart said. “Last year we exported $11.2 billion of agriculture products. At the six-month mark of this year, we were 13 per cent above that so it is going to be huge.”

Although prices are slightly lower than last year, Stewart said he doesn’t think it will have too much of an impact considering the high yields.

“That is huge for the economy of Saskatchewan,” Stewart said. “Some commodities are off -- most are off a little bit. Canola has dropped $2-3 a bushel down into the $10 range, which is still quite profitable. Wheat is off a little. Probably the one that has taken the hardest hit is lentils are down a fair bit.

“With the increased volume, our producers will certainly be OK in most areas, that’s for sure and I think we will see a great help to our economy,” Stewart added.

One of the reasons farmers may have seen such increases in crops this year is because they are willing to embrace new technology.

“I think the technology that is available to producers and the fact they are after new technology aggressively all the time and they adopt new technology immediately, as soon as they can,” Stewart said.

In addition to high yields for grains, it was a good year for hay and livestock as well, he said.

“In most areas there was a good hay crop,” Stewart said. “Prices are up for both cattle and hogs. The hog industry is a big turn-around. A year ago that industry was hurting pretty badly and the hog industry is back to profitably ... Across the industry things are pretty good.”

In the future, there may be some challenges facing the agriculture industry.

“I think that thing the grain handling and transportation system needs to understand is with the new research and varieties that are available and the technology that is available to our producers, coupled with the fact that our producers are the earliest adapters of new technology than any producers in the world that it won’t be very long before this kind of crops of this magnitude are the norm in Saskatchewan and probably Western Canada,” Stewart said. “The system needs to be run accordingly.”

He is also concerned with trying to move such a large crop.

“There are no negative effects, assuming this crop can be moved in a year,” Stewart said. “If not, then there is a backlog of product in the system and that can cause some issues but I am confident although we think the infrastructure has to be ramped up to handle more product more quickly.

“I’m confident this crop can be moved in a year,” Stewart added. “It is going to take good, strong performance from the companies, supports and railways and everybody else in the system but I think that can happen.”

Livestock producers may also have challenges down the pipe.

“We have some issues looming on the horizon like the Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) rules in the United States are being strengthened despite two rulings by the World Trade Organization that said they had to go the other way, but that hasn’t really had a huge effect yet.”

Organizations: Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Regina, Moose Jaw Western Canada Country of Origin Labelling United States

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