Author Archives: prosperitysaskatchewan

PotashCorp adds jobs to Cory operation #potash

2 Oct 2014
The StarPhoenix
PotashCorp adds jobs to Cory operation
38 jobs to be filled from recall list
From page A1 PotashCorp has added to its workforce at the same time a senior executive says the Saskatoon-based company plans to increase its capacity in 2015.
PotashCorp spokesman Bill Johnson said that the company is adding 38 positions to its Cory potash mine.
“We anticipate that we will be able to fill the vast majority of those positions with recalled employees,” Johnson said. “If there were any new hires it would most likely be in trade positions such as electricians.”
About half of the jobs are replacing temporary positions that have been brought back over the last few months to meet increasing demand.
Some of those positions (some in mining construction, others in production) will be transferring from temporary to full-time permanent.
“This move and the rehires announced previously at Lanigan (at the end of June) will allow us to maintain our flexibility in meeting market demand,” Johnson said. “It signals a healthy potash market and the need to ensure that we have the ability to fill that market.”
Increased capacity
A the recent Scotiabank Fertilizer and Chemicals Conference, PotashCorp Executive vice-president and CFO Wayne Brownlee said the company plans to increase its supply capability to 11 million tonnes in 2015.
Brownlee said potash consumption will be close to 59 million tonnes this year while world production will be about 57 million tonnes.
With most of its competitors operating at close to 100 per cent capability, if the same consumption takes place in 2015 two million tonnes will need to come from inventories or new supply.
“… The surplus capability is, for the most part, going to be in the hands of Canpotex and primarily PotashCorp, we believe,” Brownlee said.

Can geothermal industry gather steam in Canada – from DEEP in Saskatchewan?

Can geothermal industry gather steam in Canada?
The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Oct. 29 2013, 1:13 PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 01 2014, 2:18 PM EDT
This is part of an eight-week series on clean energy.
Kirsten Marcia aims to launch an energy project with profound implications for Canada. A geologist by training, Ms. Marcia is president and CEO of Deep Earth Energy Production Corp., a Saskatoon-based startup she cofounded in 2010. DEEP’s ambition: to become Saskatchewan’s first geothermal power producer by tapping a vast hot aquifer three kilometres below ground near the city of Estevan.
Data from decades of oil and gas drilling in the Estevan area shows that the water is there, Ms. Marcia explains. The plant that DEEP plans to build would yield five megawatts, enough to power 5,000 homes. “Here we are with, I believe, Canada’s best chance at a geothermal power project, and certainly not just one,” she says. “I believe that the repeatability of these projects is huge.”
Abroad, Canadian companies produce significant geothermal power, which involves gathering heat from the Earth for uses that range from home electricity to aquaculture. Hot springs are the most visible manifestation of this clean and renewable energy source.
Geothermal’s advantage over wind and solar is that it doesn’t stop running. “You get geothermal power 24 hours a day,” says John Carson, CEO of Vancouver-based Alterra Power Corp., which runs geothermal plants in Iceland and the United States. “It’s baseload power, and that’s what makes it extremely valuable.”
But where many other countries have well-developed geothermal industries, Canada has yet to open a commercial plant. One roadblock is that most provinces and territories don’t even allow geothermal projects. Also, because geothermal is relatively expensive to develop and there’s no domestic production, investors remain hesitant to commit.
“What we’re up against is getting the first successful project up and running,” says Tim Weis, Edmonton-based director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the non-profit Pembina Institute.
Alison Thompson, founder and chair of Calgary-based industry group the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), wants governments to step in and help the industry gather steam. “There’s what we call an artificial border at the 49th parallel,” Ms. Thompson says. “The resource doesn’t end; there’s policies in place in our country that are preventing it from going forward.” CanGEA estimates that Canada could have 5,000 megawatts of installed geothermal power by 2025.
Ms. Thompson laments the lack of a regulatory regime across Canada: “When we’ve asked the provinces to rectify this, the usual response is ‘Well, you need to have a big enough industry for us to justify having that department internally.’ Well, this is a chicken-and-egg scenario. How do you get a big enough industry if you’re not giving out permits? This is not strategic thinking.”
DEEP, however, recently did receive a $2-million commitment from provincial utility SaskPower and Natural Resources Canada to fund an engineering design study. Now preparing to drill its first well, the company could see power generation as soon as 2015, Ms. Marcia says.
From the surface, the plant would look like just another Quonset hut on the Prairie landscape. Rather than power its turbine directly with steam from the hot underground water, DEEP plans to use a 40-decade-old technology that extracts the water, harvests its heat with a heat exchanger and introduces it to a fluid with a low boiling point, Ms. Marcia says.
Because the aquifer is so big, DEEP could build many five-megawatt projects on the 40,000 square kilometres [according to Ms. Marcia, the area in question is 100 km by 400 km] of land atop it and sell power to the Saskatchewan grid. “We can grow this company to hundreds of megawatts of baseload power.”
That would still leave Canada well behind the United States, the world leader with 3,389 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity, according to a recent report by the Washington-based Geothermal Energy Association. With 980 megawatts, Mexico ranks fourth. In sixth place (895 megawatts) is tiny New Zealand. Other big producers include the Philippines (No. 2) and Iceland (No. 7).
Alterra’s Mr. Carson thinks it will be years before Canada develops any large geothermal zones like those found in California. “There are only select areas in the world where current geothermal technology can work,” he says. Although there are plenty of areas of interest in British Columbia, no one has imminent plans for production-scale drilling there, Mr. Carson notes.
In Canada, there’s big potential for geothermal projects that generate power through a newer process that involves fracturing rock and injecting water to make steam, Pembina’s Dr. Weis says. But the regulatory regime needs to catch up: As he points out, B.C. and the Northwest Territories are the only Canadian jurisdictions that issue permits for geothermal projects.
Jason Switzer, Pembina’s Calgary-based director of corporate consulting, says Canada must also get better at collecting and aggregating data from oil and gas exploration. “There may well be close-to-surface hot aquifers that we just don’t know about because when they were drilling for oil and gas, they weren’t looking for hot water.”
Then there are the financing challenges. Geothermal can be a steady and fairly low-cost source of renewable energy once a project is operational, Dr. Weis says. But in Ms. Marcia’s experience, smaller developers like DEEP find it tough to raise equity or debt finance at the initial drilling stage because investors fear that risk outweighs return. “Although they’re actually cheaper over the long haul, some of our capital costs upfront are higher,” she says.
The biggest impact from government funding would be during test drilling because it would bridge the gap between a geothermal project’s startup and its more mature phase, Ms. Marcia adds. “We get this first project up and going and we establish an industry for Canada, we bring that risk way, way down.”

BHP Billiton’s Serge Pelletier receives Alumni Award #potash

From BHP Potash Pages – September 2014
BHP Billiton’s Serge Pelletier receives Alumni Award
This past June, Serge Pelletier, BHP Billiton’s Prinicpal Community for Reclamation and Closed Mines, received a letter from his alma matter, Montana Tech, letting him know that he had been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Montana Tech Alumni Recognition Award. Montana Tech’s Engineering Department had nominated Serge to receive the award and to be recognized for his professional accomplishments.
Serge, who grew up in Quebec, received a certificate as a Mining Technician after high school; after graduation Serge worked for a crown corporation for two years and for five years at an underground gold mine in the North of the province. In 1991, Serge moved to Butte, Montana to attend Montana Tech and graduated in December 1993 with his Bachelor’s Degree in Mining Engineering.
Serge has been with BHP Billiton since 6 January 1994 where he started with New Mexico Coal, Navajo Coal Mine. He has lived in many locations and had many different roles throughout his time with BHP Billiton, including General Foreman Drill and Blast at the Syama Gold Mine in Mali, Senior Analyst Breakthrough Resourcing in Brisbane, Australia, Technical Advisor, Senior Environment Engineer and Assistant to the Presidents at the Ekati Gold Mine in the Northwest Territories and finally Commercial Manager for Diamonds and Specialty Products in Johannesburg, South Africa before joining Potash in March 2008.
Over the years, Serge has stayed in touch with the Mining Department at Montana Tech, supporting the mining team and lending his knowledge about the industry when they have needed it.
Serge was the first and only person from Quebec to ever attend the Montana Tech School of Mining Engineering.
Serge lives in Saskatoon with his wife, Martine and their two daughters Alexe and Audrey.
Congratulations to Serge on receiving such an outstanding award and for all of his career achievements!

Oil, rail want seven years to retrofit

1 Oct 2014
National Post – (Latest Edition)
By Joan Lowy
The Associated Press
Oil, rail want seven years to retrofit
The oil and railroad industries are urging federal regulators to allow them as long as seven years to upgrade existing tanker cars that transport highly volatile crude oil, a top oil industry official said Tuesday. The cars have ruptured and spilled oil during collisions, leading to intense fires.
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters that his group and the Association of American Railroads are jointly asking the Transportation Department for six to 12 months for rail tank-car manufacturers to gear up to overhaul tens of thousands of cars and another three years to retrofit older cars.
The two industries, at odds until recently over how best to prevent oil train collisions and fires, also want three years after that to upgrade newer tank cars manufactured since 2011, known as “1232 cars,” he said.
The Transportation Department is weighing tougher safety regulations for rail shipments of crude, including stronger tank cars, slower train speeds and more advanced train braking systems. In July, the department proposed that older cars be retrofitted within two years.
The longer retrofit timeline reflects the need to allow tank-car makers time to expand their operations while still producing new tank cars, Mr. Gerard said.
The government’s more aggressive timeline could hurt consumers by disrupting the production and transportation of goods including chemicals, gasoline, crude oil and ethanol, he said. All are shipped in the same type of tank cars under government regulations.
The oil and railway industries have made concessions to agree on a safer design for newly manufactured cars. The design adds safety features including “thermal blankets” between the shell of the tank car and an outer jacket. In a fire, the blanket helps prevent oil in tank cars that have not ruptured from overheating and exploding. But the design doesn’t include a thicker shell previously sought by the railroad industry.
The petroleum institute initially had opposed changing the 1232 car’s design, while the railroad industry sought extensive changes. Shippers such as oil companies will bear most of the cost of tank car retrofits and design changes because they lease or own tank cars, not the railroads.
The oil industry is also now opposing a proposal that oil trains be required to install electronically controlled brakes, a key concern for railroads. Electronically controlled brakes stop all the cars on a train at the same time rather than sequentially, which safety officials say can reduce the number of cars that derail in an accident. Railroad industry officials say safety benefits would be minimal and cost US$12-billion to US$21-billion, according to a CSX estimate.
Rail shipments of crude oil have grown from a few thousand carloads a decade ago to 434,000 carloads last year.

Saskatchewan aiming to triple exports to Asia

1 Oct 2014
Sask. aiming to triple exports to Asia
Hoping to hit target by 2020
Premier Brad Wall says Saskatchewan is looking to triple its exports to Asia by 2020 to keep in line with recommendations from a report released on Tuesday.
The Saskatchewan-Asia Advisory Council made 45 suggestions, such as more Asian language studies in schools and increased recruitment of international post-secondary students from that continent.
“There are some pretty bold recommendations,” said Wall, who added the province has already increased its role in Asian markets.
“Lest anyone doubt that this is possible, consider that between 2008 and 2012 Saskatchewan exports to China grew from $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion.”
The council, formed in May 2013 to provide advice on Saskatchewan’s trade with Asia, reports Asian countries have the highest demand for provincial products.
It warns Canada is lagging behind countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Australia.
Recommendations include the province creating project proposals for at least 10 major investment opportunities for Asian entrepreneurs to consider.
Council chairman Grant Kook, who is CEO of Saskatoon-based Westcap Mgt. Ltd., said Asia is set to account for half of the world’s global domestic product by 2050. He suggests Saskatchewan can reap the economic benefits by attracting Asian investment.
“There is a lack of urgency in national efforts to enhance and transform our Asian relationships,” Kook said. “We believe Saskatchewan can and should lead the nation in Asian engagement.”
The report says Saskatchewan’s trade in 2013 with Asia was at an all-time high of $6.6 billion in exports to major partners such as India, Indonesia, China and Japan.
It recommends Mandarin language programs in schools starting at the primary level and calls for efforts to double Saskatchewan’s international postsecondary recruitment by 2020, with a focus on Asian students.
“We’re going to be careful about any major curriculum changes,” said Wall, who added extracurricular programs are one possible option for increasing the presence of Mandarin at the grade-school level.

BHP Potash Pages September 2014 #potash

See Newsletter – Potash Pages – 2014 09

Crude oil in U.S. slides most in 17 months on growing supply

Crude oil in U.S. slides most in 17 months on growing supply
Moming Zhou and Mark Shenk
Bloomberg News
Published Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 2:29 PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
West Texas Intermediate crude slid the most in 17 months, while Brent had its steepest drop in a year, as ample supply shielded the market from the risk of disruption as a result of the conflict in the Middle East.
Futures slumped as much as 3.9 per cent in New York and 3.1 per cent in London. OPEC oil production increased in September, led by a rebound in Libyan output to the highest level in more than a year, a Bloomberg survey showed Tuesday. Both benchmarks are poised for their biggest quarterly decline in more than two years. WTI may approach $90.63 after breaking below $93 and $91.50, according to Bloomberg First Word oil strategist Eric D. Pradas.
“We are going to continue to see lower prices as we go forward,” said Tariq Zahir, a New York-based commodity fund manager at Tyche Capital Advisors. “Fundamentally we are just very well supplied. The dollar continues to get stronger and it’s adding pressure to oil.”
WTI for November delivery fell $3.18 (U.S.) or 3.4 per cent to $91.39 a barrel at 1:31 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have lost 13 per cent this quarter, the most since June, 2012. The volume of all futures was 51 per cent above the 100-day average.
Brent for November settlement slid $2.46 or 2.5 per cent to $94.74 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The contract fell as far as $94.24, the lowest intraday since June, 2012. Volume was 11 per cent above the 100-day average. Prices have decreased 16 per cent this quarter. WTI was at a discount of $3.32 to Brent on ICE, compared with $2.63 Monday, which was the narrowest close since August, 2013.
Third Month
Oil is set for the third consecutive month of losses as supply gains offset the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State. Brent is down 8.5 per cent in September, compared with a 5-per-cent retreat for WTI.
“It’s the quarter end and a lot of hedge funds are pulling money out of the market,” said Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks & Opinions LLC in Houston.
Reformulated RBOB gasoline futures slid 4.5 per cent to $2.576 a gallon on the Nymex, heading for a quarterly drop of 16 per cent. The October contract expires Tuesday.
“The weakness in the expiring RBOB contract is the primary driver today,” Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pa., said by phone. “The secondary driver is the end of the quarter, which leads to book squaring. A tertiary reason is the strength of the dollar, which always weighs on commodity markets.”
Reduced Positions
Speculators reduced their net long positions on WTI by 4.8 per cent in the week ended Sept. 26 to 193,965 futures and options combined, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Oil also followed declines in other commodities as the Bloomberg Dollar Index climbed to 1,073.81, the highest since 2010. The Bloomberg Commodity Index fell 1.3 per cent. A stronger dollar reduces commodities’ investment appeal.
U.S. crude stockpiles probably expanded by 1.5 million barrels last week, a Bloomberg News survey showed before an Energy Information Administration report tomorrow.
U.S. crude stockpiles may have climbed last week as refineries started conducting seasonal maintenance. Plants typically schedule planned work for September and October, when they move from maximizing gasoline output to producing winter fuels.
‘Continuous Decline’
“What we are seeing is a continuous decline since the highs in June,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, BNP Paribas SA’s London-based head of commodity markets strategy. “We have not only financial deleveraging, but also physical surplus in the market. The dollar is going to be dominating.”
U.S. domestic production rose to 8.87 million barrels a day in the week ended Sept. 19, the most since March, 1986, according to EIA estimates. A combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies from shale formations in the central U.S.
U.S. output gains are pushing out imports. Crude oil shipments to the U.S. fell 1.24 million barrels a day to 6.87 million in the week ended Sept. 19, the lowest level since May.
“Our reduction of imports is the same as an increase of supply to the world,” said James Williams, an economist at WTRG Economics, an energy-research firm in London, Arkansas. “The supply-demand fundamentals favour lower oil prices. A lot of speculators are getting out of long positions.”
Libyan Output The International Energy Agency said earlier this month that higher exports from Libya and booming U.S. production “deepened the overhang in crude markets and overshadowed any lingering worries of potential output disruptions in Iraq.”
Libya’s oil production was at 900,000 barrels a day, unchanged from yesterday, according to National Oil Corp. The country is working to restore crude output after a year of unrest reduced it to the smallest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at one stage.
The U.S. and its European and Arab allies have conducted thousands of air missions against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
In northern Syria, Islamic State’s offensive against the town of Kobani sparked an exodus of tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds, raising concern that the conflict would widen. Tensions increased Monday after errant shells fired by Islamic State militants landed inside Turkey, injuring five people, Turkish Kurdish officials said.

Rock sorting just got easier – MineSense’s latest invention

30 Sep 2014
National Post – (Latest Edition)
By Peter Koven Financial Post
Rock sorting just got easier
Mining is risk averse, but innovation may change the game
There’s a hole in the market right in the space where we operate
The mining industry is not always synonymous with innovation. Extraction methods have been entrenched for decades, and many companies are happy to stick with the same mining and milling processes that are standard across the sector.
“There’s a monolithic barrier to anybody trying to do anything new because everybody’s the same and everybody thinks the same,” says Andrew Bamber, chief executive of MineSense Technologies Ltd.
Mr. Bamber, 43, believes there is an untapped billiondollar market for innovation and new technologies within the broader industry. With Vancouver-based MineSense’s latest invention, a unique orehandling technology for optimizing metal recovery, Mr. Bambler hopes to help prove his case.
The technology has nothing to do with finding new mines. It is about identifying valuable ore in existing mines that he believes companies are foolishly throwing away. Conversely, it is about making sure companies do not waste time and money processing low-quality ore.
When mining firms design their mine plans, they spend hours poring over the drill holes on a property and carefully assigning value to blocks of material in the ground.
Rock that gets assigned a high value goes to the mill for processing, and low-value material gets shipped to the waste pile.
Mr. Bamber says the mine plan is akin to a strawberry cake. “We know there’s strawberries in it, and we’ve got a rough idea where some are because two holes might hit a strawberry. And we extrapolate in between to say what the rest of the massive cake looks like to define the value.”
This is incredibly inefficient, he says. Drill holes can be spaced far apart, and he does not think they provide nearly enough insight on the ore. Moreover, materials can shift when companies are blasting to get the rock out of the ground, making the original model even more inaccurate.
To address this problem, MineSense has designed sensors that integrate right into mining shovels, scoops and belt conveyors. The sensors monitor the ore grades and alert companies about whether the rock should be sent to the mill or the waste pile. Essentially, the sensors are supposed to create certainty where many companies are making educated guesses.
According to MineSense’s projections, this technology could lead to cost reductions and production increases of 15% to 30% respectively, along with significantly less waste and lower energy costs.
If MineSense’s projections are accurate, it may seem absurd that no one has done this before. But that just underscores the lack of innovation in an industry where many companies are risk-averse and slow to adopt new technology, Mr. Bamber says.
“There’s a hole in the market right in the space where we operate,” he says.
Pilot trials quickly demonstrated the potential benefits of the technology to customers, Mr. Bamber says. One miner in Chile found the sensors could add hundreds of millions of dollars of value to its operation and increase the mine life.
The obvious customers for this technology are miners with low-grade, marginal projects or mines with short lives. A minor improvement in project economics could extend the life of the mine or even prevent it from closing.
When metal prices fall and miners find themselves with unprofitable operations, they usually do one of two things: cut costs aggressively or invest huge dollars in expansions to achieve economies of scale. Those are both very challenging and time-consuming options.
“We offer a third route … to put loss-making operations back into profit,” Mr. Bamber says.
If everything goes as planned, he is eyeing commercialization of the technology by the end of 2015. MineSense has a number of key milestones in its sights, including raising a fresh round of capital and finding a partner (likely an equipment manufacturer that actually builds shovels).
Mr. Bamber says a lot of mining companies, including some senior producers, are supportive of the technology because they see the potential. But one challenge in marketing it is that many companies in the mining space are so set in their ways that it can be difficult convincing them that a technology could make such a difference, he says.
On the other hand, he thinks there is a possible benefit in the fact that mines across the world are so similar in how they operate: If the technology produces good results at one mine, many others will be keen to adopt it.
Mr. Bamber founded MineSense in 2009 after working on its basic concepts as a graduate student at the University of British Columbia. The company was incubated in a lab at UB C and operated out of an employee’s garage for a while. From those modest beginnings, it now has 20,000 square feet of industrial space in South Vancouver.
“Some companies in Silicon Valley actually rent garages, so they can say they went through a garage phase,” Mr. Bamber says with a laugh. “We have a genuine garage phase in our past.”

Grain prices down; potash, uranium up #uranium #potash

30 Sep 2014
The StarPhoenix
Grain prices down; potash, uranium up
Agricultural index down in August
Commodity prices are a mixed bag for Saskatchewan producers, with most agricultural commodity prices down in August, including wheat, canola and hogs, while other commodities like cattle, uranium and potash are showing signs of strength, according to a bank commodity report released Monday.
Scotiabank’s commodity price index report indicated its agricultural index was down 6.7 per cent in August over the previous month, mainly due to declines in grain and livestock prices. “The decline was led by barley, pushed lower by very low U.S. corn prices, a competing grain for livestock and poultry,” the Scotiabank report said.
The silver lining for Saskatchewan wheat producers is that some higher-grade crops left over from last year are fetching good prices because of the large, but relatively low-quality wheat harvest this year.
“While the world wheat crop is also expected to be a record this fall, crop quality will be poor in the United States, Russia, France and Ukraine, boosting premiums for high-protein bread wheat,” Scotiabank said. “Excessive moisture will also take a toll on Western Canada’s wheat quality, but carryover volumes of higher-wheat from 201314 will add to Prairie farm income this year.”
On the mineral side, potash prices were up slightly, while uranium prices have hit bottom and are moving upward, Scotiabank said.
Spot market potash prices were at US$310 per ton in August, up only slightly from the January low of US$295 for standard-grade potash. However, Uralkali, which caused potash prices to plummet when it left the Eastern European potash cartel BPC last July, has increased granular prices in Brazil and across Latin America to US$380 per ton.
Uralkali also intends to boost contract prices to China by 10 per cent in the first half of 2015. As a result, China will exercise its options on Canpotex volumes, eager to purchase more tonnage before prices move up.
Canpotex — the overseas sales agent of Potash Corp, Agrium and Mosaic — is effectively soldout over the balance of 2014, Scotiabank said.
Record deliveries
Global potash deliveries were at record levels in the first half of 2014 and will likely increase by eight per cent to nearly 59 million tons in 2014. Canpotex producers have the bulk of the surplus capacity available for world markets. As a result, Potash Corp is recalling staff at previously curtailed operations in its Canadian mines and will consider raising its production to 10.5 million to 11 million tons in 2015 from 9.2 million tons this year.
Patricia Mohr, Scotiabank’s commodity specialist, said Potash Corp hopes to increase production now in the expectation of higher prices later. “They would like to have the volume gains, rather than substantially higher prices.”
Spot uranium prices have also lifted decisively off a US$28.25 per pound low in June to US$36.50 in mid September.
“Improving market sentiment reflects prospects for two nuclear reactor re-starts in Japan, more active midterm utility demand and production deferrals and curtailments,” Scotiabank said.

Saskatchewan farmland prices up again

Farmland prices holding steady despite falling crop values

Eric Atkins

The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 5:00 AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Sep. 29 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

The value of agricultural land across Canada is generally holding up despite falling crop prices, regional flooding and a long winter that kept buyers at bay, a new report shows.

However, the study from real estate company Re/Max adds that price increases for most farmland are expected to slow this year, with the exception of Alberta, southwestern Ontario and parts of the Ottawa Valley.

In Alberta, bidding wars have helped drive up the price of farmland by as much as 20 per cent year over year to around $10,000 an acre in the southern part of the province. Even unproductive scrubland rose in value as city dwellers bought rural getaways.

“Western Canadian farmers and their families continue to display resilience, surefootedness and enduring optimism,” said Elton Ash, regional vice-president at Re/Max of Western Canada. “Intense demand and short supply in Alberta has caused bidding wars like we see in Canada’s hot housing markets.”

The picture was not as bright in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where flooding and a harsh winter hurt farm profits and kept per-acre values generally flat year over year. In Saskatchewan, prices increased from between $1,500 and $2,000 an acre in 2013 to between $1,800 and $2,200 in 2014. Manitoba saw its price range go from between $1,350 and $1,600 to $1,500 and $2,000.

The report said the most typical buyer of farmland anywhere was a farm family expanding their output by buying more land. Proximity to local processing facilities was also a big factor in purchases.

In Ontario, farmland north of the Greater Toronto Area slated for redevelopment has hit $54,000 an acre, double the value of producing land in the region. The southwest tip of the province, Chatham-Kent, saw prices increase by 40 per cent from 2013 to $25,000 an acre. The rise drove some families looking to expand their farms out of the region to find more affordable land, the report said.

In Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo area, the bulk of the buyers were wealthy city folk looking to start a hobby farm. These farms ranged in size from 15 to 50 acres and typically cost just under $1-million, slightly lower year over year. Farmers in this area are also having to go further afield to find affordable land to expand their operations.

British Columbia’s blueberry-growing region, the Fraser Valley outside Vancouver, is also drawing a lot of interest from buyers. In the wake of a good blueberry crop in 2014, prices for an acre of farmland rose modestly to as high of $63,000 an acre from $60,000 in 2013.

In Nova Scotia, a number of new vineyards help send up prices 25 per cent to as much as $10,000 an acre.

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