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Mixed bag for Alberta farmers - energy up, fertilizer down


In 2023, Alberta's agriculture sector navigated a mixed bag of farm input price changes, with electricity rates climbing and prices for several other key inputs like purple gas, diesel fuel, propane, and farm natural gas witnessing declines.  

This trend emerges amidst an era marked by high volatility, inflation, and supply chain disruptions, as highlighted by Azam Nikzad, a market analyst with the Alberta government. 

Statistics Canada reports a 20% hike in farm operating expenses from 2021 to 2022, with Alberta's farm input price index up 9.6% in the third quarter of 2023 versus the same period in 2022.  

The analysis of yearly averages for 2023 compared to 2022 shows electricity and oil for diesel engines experiencing the most significant price increases, by 44.6% and 27.6% respectively.  

On the flip side, global market adjustments led to a 23.1% average price reduction for other fuels and a 18.2% decrease in fertilizer costs, with urea prices notably dropping by 29.5%. 

Moreover, farm machinery and seed prices went up by 14.4% and 5.6%, respectively, while feed prices modestly increased by 1.1%. Crop chemicals and livestock drugs varied, with some prices climbing and others falling, reflecting the broad impact of global supply and demand shifts. 

2023's price dynamics were influenced by several factors, including logistical challenges, labour market shifts, and geopolitical tensions such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which notably affected fuel and fertilizer markets.  

These conditions, coupled with inflationary pressures, have played a significant role in shaping the farm input landscape. 

Looking ahead, predictions for 2024 farm input prices range widely, with some experts anticipating further increases due to ongoing global uncertainty and supply constraints, while others expect a moderation in prices.  

The future direction will largely hinge on energy costs and global demand, underscoring the importance of closely monitoring these indicators for Alberta's agricultural planning and decision-making. 

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