Canadian farmers are anticipating large increases in the size of their canola, wheat and barley crops this year, setting them up well to benefit from a drought devastating the agricultural sector south of the border.

"From a historical point of view, that size of crop we would see maybe once in a decade or so," Canadian Wheat board crop expert Bruce Burnett said.

Statistics Canada issued new data Wednesday showing canola is set to hit an all time high this year. Prairie farmers anticipate a record 15.2 million metric tonnes in 2012, besting the record of 14 million set last year. Farmers in all three Prairie provinces anticipate an increase in canola production, with the potential for records in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

All grains increase

Wheat is also forecast to do well, with total production expected to reach 24.8 million tonnes in 2012, up 9.7 per cent from 22.6 million tonnes in 2011. The increase is wheat is largely due to more acres being harvested. The harvested area increased by 11.4 per cent this year to just under 22 million acres, Statistics Canada said. That was enough to offset a decline in output per acre, which has dropped from 42.1 bushels last year to 41.5.

Barley is sharply higher, anticipated to rise 23.8 per cent to nine million tonnes in 2012. That's due to a record 65.1 bushels per acre yield, but also an increase in the number of acres harvested.

Soybean production is anticipated to increase 3.7 per cent to just over 4.4 million tonnes and the production of corn for grain is anticipated to reach just over 11.7 million tonnes, up 9.5 per cent from last year's level.

All in all, it's setting up to be a banner year across all of Canada's field crops.

"You're always a bit reluctant to call it a bumper until you get the crop in the bin and we do the final counting on it, but generally speaking, you know prospects are good, and because of the drought in the U.S. prices are high," Burnett said.

The CWB, which recently lost its monopoly over selling wheat in Canada, says production of the six major grains and oilseeds could yield 51.6 million tonnes this year — better than the five-year average by about four million tonnes.

"In the decade between 2001 and 2010 we had about 50 million tonnes only twice, so you can see … it's a pretty substantial production," Burnett said.

That's in direct contrast to what's happening south of the border. America's corn farmers planted the largest corn crop since 1937 — 96.4 million acres this year, an area almost as big as the state of California. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts the average yield from that planting will be 123.4 bushels of corn per acre, down about 16 per cent from 2011.

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