Near the end of September, under a warm midday Saskatchewan sun, Lesley Kelly watched as combines chewed through the last stretches of wheat on her family’s 7,000-acre farm near Watrous, southeast of Saskatoon.
It marked the end of a critical growing season, both for the family and for a world struggling with massive disruptions to food supplies.
“2021 was quite a hard year,” Ms. Kelly said. Not only did her father die that summer, but a severe drought left her family with a crop just half the size they’d planned for. “We needed this year to help us recover from that, and it did. The yields were great. The quality was great.”
The results have been similar on grain farms across Western Canada, even as drought and war in other parts of the world continue to feed into concerns about wheat supplies.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, has slashed Ukraine’s shipments of the crop by nearly half. Meanwhile wheat outflows from Russia are stalled at last year’s levels, despite a record harvest this year. The war sent global wheat prices soaring to a 14-year high, and while prices subsequently fell to preinvasion levels, they remain roughly 70 per cent above the 10-year prepandemic average.
Early in the Ukraine conflict, attention turned to whether other major wheat producers, such as Canada, could make up for any shortfalls that emerged. The answer to that question is coming into focus. With roughly three-quarters of the spring wheat crop in the Prairies harvested as of last week, Canada’s wheat production is expected to be roughly 13 per cent larger than the average crop from the past five years.
“There is a need for our wheat when it comes to food security around the world,” said Dean Dias, chief executive of Cereals Canada, a Winnipeg-based industry association that represents the grain sector. “The production we have this year is not going to solve all the demand that is out there, but it is going to help.”