As we mentioned in our last post, one of the key activities for wintertime is planning for next year. Now, everyone knows that you can’t plan for everything – but one of the key elements to factor into your planting decisions is the global market for your crops. How much is expected to be planted, how much will be used domestically and for what, and how healthy is the export market predicted to be?

In February 2017, Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) published a Market Utilization Report. In the report, GFO asserts that understanding end-use markets for corn, soybeans and other grains is not only critical to the viability of the industry, but is also a key component in the development of market opportunities for Ontario crop farmers. As part of PROSeeds’ mission to help our corn and soybean growers succeed, we’ve pulled together some key points from this Market Utilization Report along with additional information on grain exports and domestic use.

Factors Influencing Grain End-Use in Ontario

There are many factors influencing end-use in Ontario, making it challenging to understand current utilization. A few that are highlighted in the report include:

  • The size of the province
  • The wide range of transportation options
  • The increase in popularity of on-farm storage
  • Inter-provincial transfers of grains for export to certain markets
  • Movement of grain from western provinces through to Ontario ports for export

The purpose of the GFO’s report is to assess all of these factors and provide insight to its members into key market opportunities to help Ontario farmers achieve success and prosperity. We also took a look at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Outlook for Principal Field Crops to bring you a more complete picture of the market.

Corn Market Utilization

A few facts about corn and its utilization in the market:

  • Ontario is Canada’s largest producer of corn, growing an average of 63% of the country’s grain corn (7.5 – 9 million metric tonnes of corn per year on 2 million acres of land).
  • Most of that (over 90%) is used domestically for:
    • Animal feed
    • Distillers
    • Ethanol production and other industrial applications, and of course,
    • Food for human consumption.
  • According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, as of February 2017, total domestic usage is forecast to increase by 4% for 2016-17 and again by 3% for 2017-18 due to higher livestock feeding, ethanol production and industrial use.
  • That said, Ontario corn exports have been growing significantly over the last several years, and although this growth is expected to slow down over the next couple of years, it still represents a real growth opportunity for corn farmers.
  • Main corn export markets to date are: the US, Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands, followed by the UK and Portugal.
  • Chatham (and world) corn prices have been fairly flat this year, which is expected to continue for the remainder of 2016-17, with a slight increase to the nearby Chatham corn price predicted for 2017-18 due to the higher US corn price and weak Canadian dollar.

PROSeeds - Corn domestic vs export use chart

Soybean Market Utilization

By contrast, the majority of soybeans grown in Ontario are exported (over 59%). A few other insights into the Ontario soybean industry:

  • Soybeans are the largest crop produced in Ontario by acreage, with 2.5-3 million acres producing 3 – 3.5 million metric tonnes (Mt) per year.
  • Ontario is the country’s largest soybean producer, growing 57% of Canada’s total soybeans.
  • According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as of February 2017, country-wide exports are expected to grow to a record amount of 4.4 Mt for 2016-17 (compared to 4.2 Mt for 2015-16), and then to 4.6 Mt for 2017-18.
  • On the other hand, domestic processing is expected to drop to 1.85 Mt this year, followed by a marginal rise to 1.9 Mt in 2017-18.
  • Nearly ¾ of soybeans grown in the province of Ontario are commodity soybeans, and ¼ are food-grade.
  • 76% of exports are commodity grade soybeans for the oil crush markets in China, the European Union (EU) and the US.
  • The remaining 24% of exports are food-grade soybeans used for soy foods in markets like Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
  • When it comes to domestic use, over ¾ (77%) of soybeans are used as animal feed for swine, cattle, and chickens.
  • The remaining soybeans used domestically are for oil for both food and industrial use (16%), and for seed (7%).
  • Soybean prices are forecast to be marginally higher in 2016-17, at $445-475/t, but then fall to $435-475/t in 2017-18, with pressure from lower US prices mainly offset by the weak Canadian dollar against the US dollar.

PROSeeds - Soybean domestic vs export use chart

What Factors Should Ontario Farmers Watch?

So, beyond weighing all these numbers, what do farmers really need to pay attention to? Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada advises watching these main factors this year:

  • Growing, transport, and harvest conditions in South America (for corn and soybeans),
  • Demand from China for imports (for soybeans),
  • Planting intentions in the US, and
  • Changes in exchange rates.


Market conditions and crop production are unpredictable at best, but planting the right high quality seed for your farm business gives you the best chance for success. Here at PROSeeds, we have a broad selection of soybean varieties and corn hybrids, allowing you to match your production to both the conditions on your farm and to the market needs, both domestic and abroad.


Feature image credit: Phototreat / Getty Images 178951613