The marketing chops of Ontario winter wheat producers may be tested amid the likelihood of a big crop in the province this year.
In a presentation at the Ontario Agricultural Conference earlier this month, Kell Grain merchandiser Steve Kell said he still believes wheat producers can be profitable in 2023, but warned they need to be ready with a marketing plan once the 2023 crop begins to roll off the field in the summer.
To that end, Kell said producers need to be particularly careful about avoiding sales during the annual window when Soft Red Winter and corn prices in the province often come together to trade near par – typically around late August or early September. But because of the size of the 2023 winter wheat crop, producers should expect that period of price parity to start earlier and last longer.
“Expect a collision when the price of wheat and the price of corn are going to get to the same number,” he said. “They didn’t do it very long this past year because we had such a small wheat crop. But they’re probably going to (reach parity) starting about Aug. 1 and lasting until about corn harvest.”
Statistics Canada’s crop production report in December pegged Ontario winter wheat seeded area for harvest this summer at 1.344 million acres, up more than 400,000 acres or 44.5% from the 930,300 acres planted in the autumn of 2021. If accurate, it would top the previous high of 1.275 million acres that were planted in the fall of 2007 for harvest in 2008.
Assuming an average provincial yield of 90 bu/acre, Kell said Ontario winter wheat production this year could reach around 3.2 million tonnes. To put that figure in perspective, he noted there have been only two other times when winter wheat production in the province amounted to more than 2.5 million tonnes, in 2013 and 2021.
Of course, the winter wheat crop still has a long way to go before it’s in the bin, but Kell said it was planted into excellent fall conditions and looks to be in good shape – at least to date.
On the demand side, the amount of wheat milled in Ontario has increased over the past few years, and in 2021-22 reached an estimated 664,000 tonnes. Some of the Ontario crop also finds its way across the US border and into nearby mills like Toledo, but even at that Kell estimated there will be about 4 tonnes of Ontario wheat for every 1 tonne that finds its way into milling channels.
The overflow will have to be cleared by going to livestock or feed or exports, and it is the latter option that Kell said growers should keep an eye on - although export markets admittedly can be slow to develop. Ontario is blessed with several Great Lakes ports that are within reasonable trucking distance, he added.
“We have access to the world, and that’s worth an absolute fortune to us. And that’s going to be part of the way we get ourselves through this wheat crop.”