Prairie oats market stable, but strong

Oats bids in Western Canada have stabilized for the time being, as the weather concerns that propped up the market at the beginning of the month are largely factored in.

“It’s a pretty stable market. Stable, but strong,” said Scott Shiels, of Grain Millers Inc. in Yorkton, Sask.

Prices moved up at the beginning of October on concerns that the crop wouldn’t be harvested, said Shiels. While conditions remained less than ideal, producers were able to make some headway heading through the month, with 82 per cent of the oats off the fields in Saskatchewan as of Oct. 21 and 67 per cent in Alberta. Manitoba’s oats harvest was farthest along, at 97 per cent complete as of Oct. 21.

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“Some buyers got scared when we had that first shot of bad weather, and there were some premiums out there, but they were pretty short lived,” said Shiels.

While Grain Millers was well supplied with contracted oats for the time being, he expected pricing opportunities could arise from line companies looking to fill orders from time to time.

“This is the kind of year where if farmers can be patient, it will pay off,” said Shiels.

Nearby oats are currently priced in the C$3.00 to C$3.50 per bushel range in Saskatchewan, and top out at C$$3.75 in Manitoba, according to Prairie Ag Hotwire data.

Canadian farmers delivered 660,000 tonnes of oats into the commercial pipeline during the first ten weeks of the 2019/20 marketing year, according to the latest Canadian Grain Commission data. That’s up by about 90,000 tonnes from the same time the previous year.

Seeded oats area was up in 2019, and Statistics Canada forecast production at 4.0 million tonnes in September. That would be the country’s largest oats crop since 2008, although the actual production is unlikely to live up the forecast due to the adverse harvest weather. Statistics Canada’s next production estimate will be released on Dec. 6.

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