‘A mixed bag’: Ag producers reflect on a year of trade troubles and wicked weather

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WATCH: The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said the 2019 season was one of its worst in recent years – Dec 24, 2019

It was a tough year in agriculture as 2019 brought a rollercoaster of conditions to Saskatchewan farmers.

“I think half of the farmers are probably relieved that the year’s completed,” said Todd Lewis, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president. “The other half, or close to half, are pretty concerned because they still have crop in the field.”

The growing season started with a drought and ended with snow, which downgraded the quality of possibly the second-biggest crop in Saskatchewan’s history.

“It’s certainly been a mixed bag this year,” Lewis said. “There are always areas that do better than others, or do worse than others, but this year has been pretty challenging across the board.”

READ MORE: Wet, cool weather slows progress on Saskatchewan harvest

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Lewis said those challenges will carry over into the new year.

“It’s really going to impact 2020 as far as being able to get a crop sewn,” Lewis said. “(Farmers) are going to have to get that crop off before they can start getting on the land. The logistics of it are going to be very difficult.”

Tough times in the field translate to tough times for Saskatchewan’s economy, according to Jason Childs, University of Regina associate economics professor.

But Childs said the loss of markets had a bigger impact on the economy this year.

“Nationally, we planted less canola this year than last, but prices are still down,” Childs said. “When we see supply drawing back and lower prices that’s an indication we’ve lost access to markets.”

READ MORE: Canola farmers still uncertain about Chinese market access

China imposed trade restrictions on Canadian canola in March. Canada’s producers also suffered through a roughly four-month suspension of beef and pork exports to China.

But, there is good news, according to Lewis. He said a lot of canola is still being shipped to China.

“Only two of our main shippers are being taken out of the market place by China,” Lewis said.

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And after months of disputing with India over pulse fumigations, Lewis said problems with lentil shipments will change in the new year.

“The pulse situation is starting to correct itself a little bit because India’s gonna have a bad crop by the sounds of it,” Lewis said.  “There are opportunities and farmers are always looking for opportunities. We look forward to better times.”

READ MORE: CN Rail, union reach tentative agreement after week-long strike

Heading into a busy shipment season, Childs said producers are going to be paying close attention to backlogs.

The CN Rail strike came and went this year, and Childs said CP Rail “looks like it’s going to be stable for a while.”

However, one thing to watch out for is train derailments.

“We’ve got to worry about the state of the tracks and how that’s going to gum up the works,” Childs said.

According to Childs, derailments, serious damage to the tracks or bad weather can slow down shipments and affect crops getting to the ports.

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