'Watch out pasta lovers' as drought slashes Canada durum output

21 Aug 2023 | Mark Shenk

The mounting drought conditions in Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta is expected to severely hamper durum wheat production in the country and should lead the government to trim production forecasts, market participants have told Agricensus Monday.

"Watch out pasta lovers; what appeared this spring [to be] a planted acreage capable of supporting maybe 5.5 million mt of production, has deteriorated significantly," said Mike Jubinville, a senior market analyst at MarketsFarm.

"In July, we were forecasting a durum crop of 4.1 million mt, but are currently in the process of trimming that number to below 4 million mt, maybe in the 3.7 to 3.9 million mt area," Jubinville said.

"The trade is likely thinking Canada's crop size is 4-4.5 million metric tons," another Canadian analyst said.

While durum wheat is more drought resistant than other wheat varieties, crop conditions are suffering in prime growing areas in southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta, which have been experiencing unusually hot and dry weather since May.

"There’s been some light showers in southwest Saskatchewan and southern Alberta over the past week, but that is far too late to help - in fact, it hurts as harvest is well underway," Jubinville said.

"There is potential for quality downgrades with the recent rains on any crop still standing," Jubinville added.

The Canadian government pegged the 2023/24 durum harvest at 5.695 million mt, up from the prior crop year's 5.443 million mt, in a July 21 report.  

During the severe 2021 drought, the country harvested 3.03 million mt, according to government data.

Statistics Canada will release its first crop estimates on August 29.

The price of Canadian durum has surged because of concerns about the crop, leaving 14.5% FOB Vancouver cargoes at $500/mt, up 43% from $350/mt in late June, while St Lawrence cargoes are $510/mt, up 42% from $360 in late June.

Canada is the world’s biggest durum producer and exporter, with Saskatchewan responsible for 77% of Canada’s durum production in 2022 while Alberta was responsible for the vast majority of the remainder.