Canadian farmers race to reap wheat while sun shines, but damage done
Sunny skies may allow Canadian farmers to swiftly make up for harvest delays this week, wrapping up a nightmarish season for some.
But while the harvest is finally on its way in the third-biggest wheat-exporting country, weather troubles look to dent farm incomes due to quality problems that are also forcing some millers to scrounge for supplies.
As of early last week, harvesting of major crops was only half finished in Alberta, at a time when usually it is nearly complete. Harvests in other provinces are more advanced.
Hot, dry summer weather raised fears about shrunken yields, before rain and snow in September stalled field work. Alberta is the second-biggest wheat-growing province, accounting for about one-third of Canada’s output.
At Kevin Bender’s farm near Sylvan Lake, Alberta, wet weather shut down harvest operations for a full month starting in early September, leaving him just one-quarter finished as of a week ago and “behind the eight-ball,” he said.
Warm weather in the past week allowed Bender to double his progress harvesting wheat, canola and barley to 50pc finished, and he expects to nearly finish this week if the weather holds.
Even so, much of the province’s wheat will fall short of milling quality, which pays farmers the highest prices, because wet weather caused it to sprout in the field, affecting potential dough strength for bakers.
“The quality is gone and not coming back,” said Bender, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission industry group.