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US Corn Imports Allowing Bigger Barley Exports

Heavy imports of US corn are helping to keep Canadian barley exports humming.

In a virtual presentation last week at the annual general meeting of the Saskatchewan Crop Organizations, Marlene Boersch of Mercantile Consulting Venture said exports of Canadian barley so far in 2021-22 are actually running ahead the year-ago pace, despite the fact drought on the Prairies last summer slashed production by about 33% to around 7 million tonnes.

The reason exports are still moving out despite the tight supply, she said, is because American corn is flowing in to replace barley in domestic feed rations.

“I would have anticipated more domestic feeding. But what we have done instead is we have increased our monthly imports of US corn,” Boersch said.

Year-to-date Canadian barley exports are now approaching 1 million tonnes, compared to just under 750,000 the previous year, Boersch said. China has been the primary buyer, accounting for about 950,000 tonnes of that business, she added. Meanwhile, Agriculture Canada is projecting total Canadian imports of US corn for 2021-22 at 3 million tonnes, up from 1.5 million in 2020-21 and the highest in years.

Looking ahead to the 2022 growing season, Boersch said she expects Canadian barley seeded area will decline slightly, down about 300,000 acres on the year to about 8 million – mostly due to heavy competition from other crops. Assuming a return to more normal weather and yields, production should rebound to around 9.8 million tonnes, she said.

With the total 2022-23 barley supply likely to climb to around 10.2 million (versus 7.8 million for 2021-22), Boersch said new-crop exports and domestic feed use should amount to around 3 million and 6 million tonnes, respectively – more in line with previous years. New-crop barley ending stocks should double from the 300,000 tonnes forecast for the current marketing year, although that will still be relatively tight on a historical basis, she said.

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