Taking stock of tight canola seed supplies for 2022

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

The amount of canola acres seeded in 2022 might not only be limited by a lack of soil moisture in spring, but there’s also potential for a shortage of canola seed relative to intended acres.

Based on conversations with retailers, seed companies, and farmers, this 2022 season will likely include canola seed supply challenges from certain brands and product lines, but not necessarily all. No matter which brand or varieties you intend to buy, talking to your retail about availability in the short term would be ideal to adequately secure your needs.

The factors leading to the seed supply issue for canola are slightly different than other crop types, such as pulses and cereals. The majority of other crops are challenged based on the drought of 2021. For canola, the supply problem stems from poor production volumes coming out of southern Alberta due to heat, and shipping challenges creating uncertainty for timely delivery of contra season production in South America.

Much of the canola seed in Canada is produced under irrigation in Alberta, so water availability was not the challenge, but instead high temperatures at the wrong time were responsible for the majority of the lower than budgeted yield.

“In southern Alberta we have learned over the years that early seeding pays off, but in this case the heat in late June punished the early seeded canola production crop,” explained one seed production veteran that we spoke to.

RealAgriculture has contacted most of the canola seed companies in the Canadian market over the last few weeks. Not all would say how short their southern Alberta production was, but a 10-15% reduction was disclosed a couple times.

“The high temperatures created challenges during flowering and pod abortion, which reduced the target yields,” disclosed Curt Baldwin, director, canola, corn and soybean business unit at Canterra Seeds.

“Corteva acknowledges lower-than-expected canola availability for 2022 as a result of weather-related conditions this summer in southern Alberta,” said Kris Allen, communications leader for Corteva AgriSciences.

Typically, in a low producing year, seed companies make up for domestic supply challenges by producing seed through the contra season in Chile. However, harvest, seed quality testing, and the ocean freight back to Canada have to be completed on very tight timelines in a normal year to arrive in time for the spring season in Western Canada.

With the global shipping crisis, there are major concerns about getting shipments back to Canada from Chile in time for seeding. Some companies are planning to ship seed by air, which is quite expensive, especially this year, as air freight prices and demand have also risen dramatically.

Canterra Seeds said it feels comfortable with its seed availability, and appears to be one of the only companys to not plant in Chile this fall because of the “anticipated supply chain issues regarding availability of containers, costs and ocean freight.”

Other canola seed companies indicate they intend to ship seed to Canada from Chile by air if needed. Based on demand, RealAgriculture did hear that air freight has increased significantly in comparison to prior years when seed has had to be transported.  BASF indicated to RealAgriculture that they would use a combination of ocean and air freight and those plans started months before contra season planting took place.

In talking to multiple ag retailers and seed representatives (who wanted to remain anonymous), companies are reducing intended allocations, but to differing degrees. It’s important to note that allocations to seeds representatives and retails can be increased closer to spring once the domestic crop is conditioned and more is known on shipping resolutions related to the contra season.

“We continue to evaluate this dynamic situation and are working with retails and Pioneer agencies on seed allocation,” says Corteva’s Allen.

At Bayer, Komie Hossini, associate communications business partner at Bayer CropScience, said “we’ve been able to produce enough canola seed to meet our forecasted demand for Dekalb canola next season, which is consistent to prior years.”

BASF, which has the largest market share with its InVigor varieties, acknowledged lower southern Alberta production yields but according to Brent Collins, head of seeds & traits, Canada, “We believe that we will putting into the market a significant higher volume of seed than 2021. We do not see ourselves being short in ’22.”

All of the seed companies and retailers we talked with are keeping a close eye out for signs of hoarding, as there’s a serious concern it could make the tight supply situation worse.

According to Statistics Canada, just under 22.5 million acres of canola were seeded in 2021, up from 20.8 million in 2020. The record for canola acres — just over 23 million — was set in 2017.

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