(Bloomberg) -- The seemingly endless winter that swept through Canada’s Prairies prompted farmers to put their seed and fertilizer purchases on ice.
Wholesale sales of agricultural supplies including feeds, seeds, fertilizers and herbicides fell 17 percent in February, the largest monthly decline since 2011, according to Statistics Canada data released Monday. Parts of Canada’s heartland were walloped by above-normal snowfall this winter, with swaths of Alberta and Saskatchewan receiving as much as 1.5 times average precipitation from November to March, according to data from the nation’s agriculture ministry.
With wintry weather lasting well into what should have been spring, farmer spending also probably fell in March, said Steve Hansen, a Raymond James analyst in Vancouver. It’s harder to say if the trend continued this month since growers have a limited time frame in which to make their purchases, he said.
“A lot of farmers got really cautious with the snow pack that was there not knowing what they’re planting and how much they’re planting,” Hansen said by telephone. Purchases are “regularly influenced by the weather,” he said. “The question this year is it more abnormal and yes, it’s more abnormal from a winter standpoint.”
Canada is the world’s top canola grower and one of the biggest wheat exporters. A shortage of rail cars to move grain may have also left some farmers delaying purchases due to cash-flow issues, Hansen said. Growers in some areas have waited months to deliver their crops to elevators before they can get paid. Some of the rail problems have now started to ease, he said.
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