Weak prices to slow expansion in Man. corn acres

Lower prices are expected to slow the expansion of corn acreage in Manitoba this spring.

Last spring, 380,000 acres of corn were planted in Manitoba, a jump from 300,000 in 2012 and 180,000 in 2011.

But a recent downturn in corn prices, due to large production in the U.S., is expected to curb farmer enthusiasm to expand acres — and farmers who have never grown corn before probably won’t be as interested in planting it.

“I think the price will balance it off a little bit,” said Theresa Bergsma, general manager of the Manitoba Corn Growers Association at Carman, Man. “With the price being down around $4 and $4.50 per bushel, it’s a big cry (from) between $6 and $7.”

Bergsma expects Manitoba corn acres will either be stable or slightly higher this spring, depending on prices at the time farmers make their 2014 cropping decisions.

She expects lower prices will mean the producers who always grow corn will maintain their acreage, because they have already invested in expensive specialized equipment for corn.

But those who aren’t seasoned veterans, and haven’t put as much money into such equipment, may decide to reduce their acres.

What type of weather the province receives this spring will also help farmers determine whether or not they’re going to plant corn.

“If (the spring) is quite late and they’re calling for a cool summer, guys will rethink that situation as well,” Bergsma added.

Though further expansion won’t be as rapid as it has been over the last two years, farmers who have never grown corn before are still interested in the crop.

Bergsma said she’s recently received calls from producers in Manitoba — and in Saskatchewan — asking for information about growing corn.

“I think we’re going to see a slow expansion if the price stays at this rate,” she said. “And if the price starts to go up again, we’ll probably see a quicker expansion; depending on how the varieties improve from here on in.”

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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