Canada's wheat production may fall 18 percent this year as dry, cool conditions in the western Prairies slow crop development and wet weather in Manitoba delays seeding, the Canadian Wheat Board said today in a report.

The harvest may include 16.4 million metric tons of non- durum wheat, down from 20 million tons a year earlier, and 4.4 million tons of durum varieties, down from 5.5 million tons, the CWB said in a preliminary forecast. The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday predicted a Canadian crop of 25 million tons.

Cooler temperatures for the past four to six months may curb yields to 33.4 bushels an acre, the lowest initial projection in seven years, Bruce Burnett, the director of weather and market analysis at the CWB, said today in a conference call.

"Cold weather across the Prairies this spring has had a detrimental effect on planting and early crop development in most growing regions," Burnett said. "Soil moisture levels are dangerously low in parts of Alberta and western Saskatchewan, where dry conditions have persisted since fall."

Canola production will total 10.2 million tons, down from 12.6 million tons last year, with an average yield of 29.3 bushels an acre, the CWB said. About 8.9 million tons of barley may be harvested, down from 11.2 million tons last year, the board said.

Acreage Estimates

About 23.36 million acres are expected to be sown with all varieties of wheat, down from a March estimate of 23.89 million, and less than 23.43 million acres planted last year, the CBW said. Some 8.5 million acres will be planted with barley, down from 9 million forecast in March, and 15.5 million acres will be seeded with Canola, up from 14.9 million projected in March, according to the report.

"While the western Prairies are abnormally dry, Manitoba has been excessively wet this spring, with seeding still incomplete," Burnett said. "Without ideal growing conditions for the remainder of the crop year, below-average production is likely for Western Canada."