The tide has turned for Canadian durum wheat, with exports now moving ahead of last year’s pace.
Exports were 10.8 per cent ahead of last year’s pace at 3.4 million metric tons as of May 5, according to weekly numbers from the Canadian Grain Commission. That’s after the number trailed the annual pace only a few weeks earlier.
“It’s legitimate demand and it’s one of the happier things that is going on in agriculture right now, where there isn’t that much good news,” said Neil Townsend, a senior analyst at FarmLink in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in a telephone interview.
Canadian crops have been facing export barriers. Canola shipments were reduced after the nation’s largest buyer, China, revoked the import license for two major export companies. Pulses (leguminous crops commonly consumed as beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas) saw less exports to India after the country restricted imports to support domestic production.
For months, durum exports had been lagging last year’s pace, with blame placed on Italy. The pasta-loving nation put country of origin labelling regulations in place last year that led to reduced exports. As of March, Canada had exported 249,800 tons of durum to Italy, which was 11.8 per cent less than last year.
Italy may have loosened up though and be buying more Canadian durum, Townsend said. There are also concerns about a reduced global crop this year. Acreage in Canada is forecast to fall 18.8 per cent to 5 million acres, according to Statistics Canada.
In the U.S., the USDA is anticipating a drop of 31 per cent to 1.42 million acres. Production is also expected to be lower in the European Union and North Africa.
“People are looking forward and thinking maybe next year there won’t be as much durum around and we should keep our coverage high as opposed to waiting for the new crop,” Townsend said.