Canola crops have been a reliable money-maker for central Alberta farmers for years.
But with prices slumping, the seed’s reputation as a reliable cash crop is taking a hit.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood said prices for canola and many grains have been sliding, with canola in the range of $9.55 per bushel earlier this week.
“There’s no money at that price for farmers,” said Wood, who farms and raises cattle in the Delburne area.
Prices have been fluctuating widely, which poses a challenge for farmers trying to pick the sweet spot for locking in a price for their crop.
Wood said the ongoing trade fight with China is being keenly felt on central Alberta farms. China has banned Canadian canola imports, a move widely seen as being in response to Canada’s detainment of a Huawei executive, who is now awaiting extradition to the U.S.
“I hope that our federal government would figure out a way to resolve that Huawei issue in short order, so us farmers can have assurance to what’s coming forward,” he said.
“It’s the farmers right now who are taking the hit from the government’s decision to detain someone from a foreign country.”
Wood wonders if the government would be acting differently if China had targeted the manufacturing sector in voter-rich provinces such as Ontario and Quebec.
Alberta Canola director Mike Ammeter said it looks like farmers are going to have to put up with the China trade issues for a while.
“As far as solving China, I don’t think that will be solved by new crop time,” said Ammeter, who planted 500 acres of canola on his farm a few kilometres southwest of Sylvan Lake.
“It’s possible, but unlikely I think.
“We seem to be getting a little deeper into this China (issue) instead of looking like we’re coming out of it. Nothing indicates we’re going in the right direction.”
Efforts have been made by government and agricultural representatives to find new markets, including a trade mission last month to Japan and South Korea.
“I think that’s a bit naive to expect something to pop up right away. As far as interest goes, I’m sure there’s great interest,” said Ammeter.
“But it takes time to get things wrapped up on the other end and at this end.”
In the meantime, farmers will do what they have always done — make the best of the situation.
If low canola prices continue, farmers may hold on to their canola and jump on selling other crops if the price is right.
“I think we’re already hearing that there’s a fair amount of canola carried over from last year that just hasn’t moved.”
While no farmer wishes ill on another, production problems elsewhere in the world could quickly drive up prices again.
“That’s just the nature of what we do. Our misfortune is someone else’s fortune and vice versa,” said Ammeter.