Flax facing tightening supplies

MarketsFarm — Solid export demand has pushed Canadian flax prices up sharply over the past month, with the market working to ration demand amid expectations for tightening supplies.

The flax market in general is “just gone crazy. We’re up 50 per cent since the start of harvest,” Scott Shiels of Grain Millers Canada at Yorkton, Sask. said of prices.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada forecast the 2020-21 carryover for flax at 125,000 tonnes, slightly more than double than the previous year’s ending stocks.

Prairie Ag Hotwire reported flax prices in Saskatchewan were $14.90-$18 per bushel delivered as of Thursday. Alberta prices were $16.50-$17.25/bu., and Manitoba was at $15.06/bu.

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“It’s going to be super tight from the feel of it today. It’s going to be dog-eat-dog out there for every bushel,” Shiels said, noting it’s very likely ending stocks should fall well under AAFC’s current projections.

MarketsFarm Pro analyst Mike Jubinville concurred, and estimated about three-quarters of Canada’s 2020 crop has already been sold.

Jubinville speculated there could be two reasons for the sharp rise in flax prices — one being production in the Black Sea region came up short this year, and the other being a possible short-term transportation bottleneck holding back flax shipments.

“It’s hard to decipher the conflicting reports at this time,” he said.

In the latest Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) weekly grain handling summary, producer deliveries of flax have jumped more than 125 per cent this marketing year at 178,900 tonnes as of Sunday. Exports have skyrocketed nearly 470 per cent, at 68,900 tonnes, and domestic usage is up almost 56 per cent, at 17,600 tonnes.

In the CGC’s monthly export report released at the beginning of November, Canadian flax exports vaulted 444 per cent by the end of September. At the time, 41,900 tonnes were shipped overseas, with 25,400 tonnes to the European Union via Belgium, compared to zero ar the same time in 2019-20. It’s a similar case with China, having taken 9,900 tonnes versus nothing the year before.

Lastly, Shiels believes this year’s Canadian flax crop was short of the 552,000 tonnes predicted by Statistics Canada in its September report.

“We were one rain away from a fantastic crop. For flax, the quality is good, but yields weren’t as good,” he said.

StatsCan could provide a clearer picture of where flax stands when it releases its principal field crops report on Dec. 3.

— Glen Hallick reports for MarketsFarm from Winnipeg.

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