Alberta 2009 Specialty Crop Report

 
 
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Purpose of survey | Methodology | Survey results | Specialty crops in Western Canada | Specialty crops by census division in Alberta | Markets for selected specialty crops | Economics of specialty crop production | Acknowledgment | Contacts
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Purpose of Survey

To address some of the data and information needs of the specialty crop industry in Alberta, the Statistics and Data Development (SADD) Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) conducts an annual specialty crop survey. Now into its twenty-sixth year, the survey captures data on area, yield and production for specialty crops grown in the province.

Data gathered from the survey are used primarily to generate related provincial and sub-provincial estimates. In turn, these estimates are used to validate some of the Alberta statistics produced by Statistics Canada, as well as to provide industry and other stakeholders with benchmark data for some of the “new” and emerging crops.

Methodology

The Alberta Specialty Crop Survey, which is provincial in scope, collects data through a non-probability sampling procedure. In February 2009, survey questionnaires were mailed out to 3,582 specialty crop producers across the province. The questionnaires specifically asked survey participants to provide information on the type of specialty crop grown, area (seeded and harvested acres), and yield for 2008. Survey participants were informed that participation in the survey was voluntary. Moreover, all individual responses would be kept confidential under the provisions of the Federal Statistics Act, as well as under the Provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act. As of May 22, 2009, a total of 814 questionnaires were returned. Of this total, 635 were usable and partly formed the basis in the generation of the Alberta 2008 specialty crop estimates.

Survey responses received were reviewed for data completeness, validated and entered into an electronic database. The data was then subjected to computerized analyses, the results of which were rolled up into group summaries, to preserve data confidentiality of individual survey respondents. In turn, the group summaries, in conjunction with information from provincial specialists of ARD, industry, and published sources (e.g. Statistics Canada), were used to generate the provincial and sub-provincial (Census Division) estimates, where appropriate.

It cannot be over emphasized that extensive consultation is done with ARD’s provincial specialists and industry in the development of the provincial/sub-provincial estimates. Provincial specialists are acknowledged for the invaluable insights they offer on crop conditions and yields, particularly when attempting to firm up some of the sub-provincial estimates generated from the survey. Similarly, administrative data on yield and crop area grown under private contracts also add value to the estimates.

It should be noted that the estimates are subject to error. Some of the possible sources of error include data coding, data entry and tabulation. Nonetheless, we believe that the statistics published in this report are reliable estimates for Alberta.

Survey results

Area, yield and production in Alberta
The six major crops grown in Alberta refer to wheat, barley, oats, rye, canola and flaxseed. All other field crops, excluding vegetables and tame hay, are considered as specialty crops. They include dry peas, chick peas, dry beans, fababeans, lentils, mustard seed, sunflower seed, grain corn, silage corn, triticale, canary seed, sugar beets, potatoes, forage seeds and other field crops.

In 2008, producers in Alberta seeded more acres to specialty crops, compared to a year earlier. The total provincial seeded area, excluding potatoes and forage seeds, was estimated at 1.03 million acres, up eight per cent, from 0.96 million acres in 2007 (see Figure 1). Of the total seeded area, over 0.95 million acres or 93 per cent were harvested for grain production. To offer some perspective, shown in Figure 3 on page 4, is the percentage distribution of specialty crop seeded acreage in 2008, by crop type (i.e., pulse crops, oilseeds, corn, forage seeds and other crops).

Crop growing conditions during the 2008 crop season were generally favorable, although cool spring temperatures did cause some delays in seeding and crop emergence. The favorable conditions contributed to above average yields for most specialty crops grown on dryland. For specialty crops under irrigation, yields were mostly similar to their 10-year averages.

The provincial average yield for dry peas in 2008 was estimated at 38.4 bushels per acre, 18 per cent higher than in 2007, and ten per cent above the 10-year average (see Tables 1 and 4). For triticale, the provincial average yield was 54.6 bushels per acre, 40 per cent higher than in 2007, and 31 per cent above the 10-year average. With the majority of its acreage in southern Alberta, mustard seed produced an average yield of 780 pounds per acre, or 11 per cent higher than in 2007, and three per cent above the 10-year average.

The estimated provincial average yields for specialty crops under irrigation were mostly similar to the 10-year averages (see Tables 1 and 4). For dry beans, the provincial average yield was estimated at 2,200 pounds per acre, or two per cent higher than the 10-year average. The provincial average yield for sugar beets was 21.2 tonnes per acre, compared to 21.1 tonnes per acre for the 10-year average. For potatoes, the provincial average yield was 336 cwt per acre, or four per cent above the 10-year average.



Specialty crops in Western Canada

Based on the results of “Alberta 2008 Specialty Crop Survey” and Statistics Canada’s “November Estimate of Production of Principal Field Crops, Canada, 2008”, total seeded and harvested acres of specialty crops in Western Canada in 2008 increased from a year earlier. This stemmed mainly from larger areas in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as Manitoba was up only marginally, and area in British Columbia was almost negligible.

In 2008, the total seeded area of specialty crops in Western Canada was estimated at 7.88 million acres, up four per cent from 7.61 million acres in 2007. On a provincial basis, Saskatchewan with its 5.86 million acres accounted for 74 per cent of the 2008 total, while Manitoba and Alberta accounted for 13 per cent each. The specialty crop seeded area in British Columbia was extremely small. Similar to seeded area, the total harvested acreage in Western Canada in 2008 increased three per cent from a year earlier, to 7.61 million acres.

Based on seeded area, the four largest specialty crops grown in Western Canada in 2008 were dry peas, lentils, canary seed and mustard seed. Altogether, these crops accounted for 6.64 million acres, or 84 per cent of the total area seeded to specialty crops. Dry peas, with a total seeded area of 4.00 million acres, was the largest specialty crop, representing more than one-half (51 per cent) of the Western Canada total. Lentils was next, with seeded acres totaling 1.75 million acres (22 per cent of the total), while mustard seed and canary seed accounted for six per cent and five per cent, respectively. Shown in Figure 2 below is the harvested area of the top four specialty crops in Western Canada. Historical statistics on seeded area and production for selected specialty crops are presented in Table 5 on page 13.

Source: Statistics Canda' and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development




Alberta Census Divisions
ID, MD and Counties Map Figure 4






Specialty crops by census division in Alberta

This section presents estimates of area, yield and production at the Census Division level in Alberta, for dry peas, mustard seed, and dry beans. Just to note, the Census Division estimates were generated from a small sample, and as such, caution should be exercised when interpreting and using the data. Also, for reference, the Alberta Census Division and municipality map is shown on page 5 – Figure 4.

Dry peas
In 2008, a total of 710,000 acres were seeded to dry peas (see Table 1). Of this total, 700,000 acres were harvested, or 18 per cent higher than in 2007, and 23 per cent above the 10-year average. Due to favorable crop growing conditions during the 2008 crop season, the average yield, estimated at 38.4 bushels per acre, was 18 per cent higher than in 2007, and ten per cent above the 10-year average.

The total provincial production of dry peas was estimated at 731,400 tonnes, up 39 per cent from 2007. The higher production was attributed to a combination of higher yield and an increase in harvested area.

Although dry peas are grown primarily on dryland across the province, the largest acreages are in Census Divisions 1 (Medicine Hat area), and 5 (Drumheller area) - see Table 2 and Figure 5. In 2008, these two Census Divisions (1 and 5) accounted for 34 per cent of the provincial total harvested area. Just to note, dry pea yields were quite varied across the province.

Mustard seed
In 2008, producers in the province seeded a total of 110,000 acres of mustard seed, with 105,000 acres harvested (see Table 1). Due to improved crop growing conditions, the provincial average yield increased 11 per cent from 2007, to 780 pounds per acre.

The total provincial production of mustard seed was estimated at 37,100 tonnes, up 37 per cent from 2007. The higher production was attributed to a 24 per cent increase in the harvested area, and 11 per cent increase in yield.

Of the three types of mustard seed produced in Alberta, yellow mustard seed continues to dominate, accounting for 80 per cent of the provincial total production in 2008, while brown and oriental mustard seed each represented ten per cent.

Mustard seed is mostly grown on dryland in southern Alberta. In 2008, nearly 81 per cent of the total harvested area in the province was in Census Divisions 1, 2 and 4 (see Table 2 and Figure 6). Also, mustard seed yields varied significantly across Census Divisions. For example, Census Division 2 had the highest yield of 983 pounds per acre, while the lowest yield of 580 pounds per acre was in Census Division 4.

Despite the lower yield, the total provincial production of mustard seed, estimated at 27,000 tonnes, was five per cent higher than in 2006. The higher production stemmed from a 42 per cent increase in the harvested area, more than negating the impact of the lower yield.

Of the three types of mustard seed produced in Alberta, yellow mustard seed continues to dominate, accounting for 60 per cent of the provincial total production in 2007, while brown and oriental mustard seed represented 23 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.

In 2007, over 80 per cent of the total harvested area in the province was in Census Divisions 2, 4 and 5 (see Table 2 and Figure 6). Also, mustard seed yields varied significantly across Census Divisions. For example, Census Division 5 had the highest yield of 817 pounds per acre, while the lowest yield of 645 pounds per acre was reported in Census Division 3.

Dry beans
The total seeded area of dry beans in 2008 was estimated at 40,000 acres (see Table 1). Due to hailstorm damage, only 35,000 acres were harvested, with an average yield of 2,200 pounds per acre. The 2008 yield was three per cent lower than in 2007, but two per cent above the 10-year average.

In 2008, total production of dry beans was estimated at 34,900 tonnes, down 36 per cent from 2007. Mainly driving the lower production was a substantial decline (34 per cent) in harvested area, as the average yield was just slightly lower than in 2007.

Dry beans are grown mostly under irrigation in southern Alberta. In 2008, a total of 37,815 acres or 95 per cent of the provincial dry bean seeded area was irrigated, according to information from the Water Resources Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Also, Census Divisions 1 and 2 collectively accounted for 97 per cent of the provincial total harvested area (see Table 2 and Figure 7). Dry beans are generally grown under contract in Alberta.








Markets for Selected Specialty Crops

The following section presents some analysis on markets for selected specialty crops, specifically dry peas, lentils, chick peas, canary seed, and mustard seed.

Dry Peas
Prices for yellow edible peas were in the $5.50 to $6.00 per bushel range over much of the 2008/09 crop year, well below the $9.00 to $10.00 per bushel range in 2007/08. Prices for other dry peas were also significantly lower, compared to a year earlier. Green peas prices hovered around the $8.00 per bushel mark in 2008/09, while for feed peas, prices were mostly below $5.00 per bushel.

The major factor behind the lower prices was the record Canadian field pea production in 2008/09, which was estimated at 3.6 million tonnes. Canadian pea exports reached 2.8 million tonnes, up markedly from 2007/08. Total domestic usage was estimated at 570,800 tonnes. The carryover of dry peas at July 31, 2009 was estimated at 445,000 tonnes, or 75 per cent higher than the level at the same date a year earlier.

In 2009, total seeded area of dry peas in Canada totaled 3.7 million acres, based on Statistics Canada’s estimates. Total Canadian production is projected to be down significantly from last year, mainly due to dry conditions experienced during much of the 2009 crop season in many areas of the Prairies. Despite the lower production, total supplies of dry peas are expected to be adequate to meet needs for domestic consumption and international exports.




Lentils
Prices for high quality large green lentils held mostly in the 24-36 cents per pound range over the 2008/09 crop year. Total lentil production in 2008 in Canada was estimated at one million tonnes, up from 733,900 tonnes in 2007. Strong exports in 2008/09, estimated at 972,100 tonnes, reduced the lentil stocks. The carryover of lentils at July 31, 2009 was estimated at 32,000 tonnes, lowest in the last five years.

In 2009, Saskatchewan producers seeded a record 2.3 million acres of lentils, based on Statistics Canada’s estimates. Less than desirable growing conditions during the summer impacted negatively on lentil yields. Despite the lower yields, total lentil production is projected to be up significantly from 2008, a result of larger harvested area. Bids for new crops range from 24 to 28 cents per pound for top grade green lentils, and 24 to 27 cents per pound for red lentils.




Chick peas
Prices for Kabuli chick peas were slightly below the 30 cents per pound level over the last eight months of the 2008/09 crop year, lower than the same period a year earlier. Total 2008 chick pea production in Canada was estimated at 74,700 tonnes, about one third of the total production in 2007.

In 2009, producers in Saskatchewan seeded a total 145,000 acres of chick peas, up markedly from 110,000 acres in 2008. Total 2009 production is projected to be higher, although yields are expected to be lower, a result of less than desirable growing conditions during the summer. Bids for new crops range from 27 to 30 cents per pound for nine millimeter Kabuli chick peas, and 24 to 26 cents per pound for Desi chick peas.



Canary seed
Prices for canary seed slipped into the 16 to 20 cents per pound range since October 2008, down significantly from the same period of pervious year. Total canary seed production in 2008 in Canada was estimated at 195,600 tonnes, up 21 per cent from 2007.

In 2009, Saskatchewan producers seeded a total 300,000 acres of canary seed, down from 390,000 acres a year earlier. As well, total 2009 production of canary seed is projected to be markedly lower, due to reduced yields and smaller harvested area. Bids for new crops are in the 16 to 17 cents per pound range.



Mustard seed
During the period of January to July 2009, prices were in the 35 to 40 cents per pound range for yellow mustard seed, 25 to 30 cents per pound for brown mustard seed, and 30 to 40 cents per pound for oriental mustard seed. These prices, with the exception for oriental mustard seed in some months, were much lower than in the same period a year earlier.

Total 2008 mustard seed production in Canada was estimated at 161,000 tonnes, up 32 per cent from 2007. Despite the higher production, total supplies (188,900 tonnes) were tight, due to a small carryover from the previous year. This contributed to the relatively strong prices for all types of mustard seeds in 2008/09, compared to their 5-year averages.

Total seeded area of mustard seed in 2009 in Canada was estimated at 545,000 acres, up about 14 per cent from 2008. The higher acreage will likely result in an increase in production, although yields could be lower, due to less than desirable growing conditions during the summer. Total mustard seed supplies in Canada are expected to improve from the 2008/09 crop year.

As a result, prices for mustard seed, particularly the yellow type, are expected to be down significantly from the previous year. Bids for new crops are 19 to 22 cents per pound for oriental and brown mustard seeds, and 25 to 28 cents for yellow mustard seed.








Economics of specialty crop production

Costs and returns for crops, livestock, and several other enterprises have been monitored in the province in an extensive way since the 1960’s. These studies have been viewed as an important tool for assisting producers in their cropping decisions and the federal and provincial governments in developing policies and programs for different farm enterprises. In addition, results from these studies have served to fill some data gaps for other provinces.

The Economics Branch (formerly known as Production Economics Branch), in the Economics and Competitiveness Division of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, has been conducting economic studies on various farm enterprises for the last several decades. Since the early 1990’s, much greater emphasis has been placed on developing costs and returns data on specialty crops for farm diversification purposes.

Continued volatile markets for traditional cereals and oilseeds have forced producers to diversify their operations into new and emerging specialty crops. As mentioned above, results from these studies have been very helpful to primary producers when making cropping decisions. Furthermore, individual producers have also used the results from these studies to compare costs and returns and profitability margins of their farms with the group averages from the respective areas in order to develop better management practices. Agri-businesses and other stakeholders have used the results of the economic studies for feasibility studies.

During the last ten years, area under special crops has increased significantly in Alberta. The total seeded area of dry filed peas was 385,000 acres in 1997, and jumped to 610,000 acres in 2001. In 2002, seeded area increased seven per cent, to 650,000 acres. However, seeded area declined to 600,000 acres in 2003. In 2004, seeded area was estimated at 640,000 acres, an increase of about seven per cent over 2003. The seeded area in 2005 decreased 13 per cent, to 555,000 acres. In 2006, seeded area for dry peas increased six per cent, to 587,263 acres. Seeded area to dry peas increased by about four per cent, to 610,000 acres in 2007. Seeded area increased by 100,000 acres from the previous year, to 710,000 acres in 2008. The provincial average yield for the 2008 dry peas was estimated at 38.4 bushels per acre.

Dry beans acreage in Alberta has fluctuated over the last decade. The total seeded area was 60,000 acres in 2001, and remained unchanged in 2002. It decreased about 13 per cent, to 52,000 acres in 2003. The acreage continued to decline, and totaled 35,000 acres in 2004. In 2005, the total seeded area was estimated at 57,000 acres, an increase of almost 63 per cent over 2004. The acreage in 2006 jumped to 62,039 acres, or nine per cent higher than in 2005. In 2007, area seeded to dry beans decreased significantly, to 53,000 acres. Area seeded to dry beans in 2008 further decreased by over 24 per cent, to 40,000 acres. The provincial average yield for the 2008 dry beans crop was estimated at 2,200 pounds per acre. Please note most of the dry beans are grown under contract on irrigated land in southern Alberta.

In the late 1990’s, producers showed considerable interest in chick peas (known as the new Cinderella crop on the Prairies). Chick peas was a huge crop in Saskatchewan from 1999 to 2001, occupying almost one million acres. In Alberta, acreage under chick peas was 100,000 acres in 2001, double the acreage in 2000. However, the area under chick peas decreased drastically to 45,000 acre in 2002, primarily due to drought concerns and disease problems. In 2003, the acreage dropped to 25,000 acres. The decline in area continued in 2004, with a total of 15,000 acres, the lowest area on record. In 2005, the total seeded area doubled, to 30,000 acres. In 2006, it increased about 37 per cent to 40,749 acres. In 2007, area seeded to chick peas increased to 50,000 acres. In 2008, area planted to chick peas decreased considerably, to 13,000 acres. The provincial average yield for the 2008 chick peas was estimated at 1,355 pounds per acre. The changes in chick pea acreage over the last decade could be attributed to drought concerns, crop diseases, and production of major importing countries.

Additionally, producer interest in other specialty crops, including caraway, buckwheat, coriander, borage, herbs and spices, continues to grow.

Shown in Tables 6 are estimates of 2008 production costs and returns for dry peas. Costs and returns data for dry beans and chick peas (Desi and Kabuli) are presented in Tables 7 and 8, respectively.










Acknowledgment

The Statistics and Data Development Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) wishes to thank all of the producers who participated in the Alberta 2008 Specialty Crop Survey conducted in the winter of 2008/2009. Without their cooperation and assistance, this report would not have been possible.

Several ARD staff members have made significant contributions to the successful completion and dissemination of this report. Those staff include Charlie Pearson of Competitiveness and Market Analysis Branch, Nabi Chaudhary of Economics Branch, Reynold Jaipaul, Roy Larsen, Melodie Mynzak, Guangzhi Liu, Gail Atkinson, Marion Harry, and Marian Elson of Statistics and Data Development Branch.

Chuanliang Su
Crop Statistician
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Economics and Competitiveness Division
Statistics and Data Development Branch
#302, 7000-113 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T6H 5T6

Contacts

For additional information relating to the various sections of this report, please do not hesitate to contact the subject area specialist referenced under each section.

For additional copies of this report, please contact:

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Economics and Competitiveness Division
Statistics and Data Development Branch
#302, 7000-113 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T6H 5T6
Phone: 780-427-4011
Fax: 780-427-5220

For the complete survey report click: "Alberta 2009 Specialty Crop Survey ".
 
 
 
 

Other Documents in the Series

 
  Specialty Crop Reports
Alberta 2012 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2011 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2010 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2009 Specialty Crop Report - Current Document
Alberta 2008 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2007 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2006 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2005 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2004 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2003 Specialty Crop Report
Alberta 2002 Specialty Crop Report
 
 
 
 
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This information published to the web on October 1, 2009.
Last Reviewed/Revised on July 31, 2015.