WINNIPEG — Canadian farmers reaped record profits last year and are on track to do the same this year, the federal agriculture ministry said on Thursday, as prices for its top crops soared.

Prices of canola hit all-time highs this month, rallying with oilseed rival soybeans, on brisk Chinese buying to produce feed for that country's rebuilding hog herd. Farm exports in general were stronger last year, the ministry said in a statement.

The record profits come despite disruptions to beef and pork production, as COVID-19 infections forced plants to suspend processing, leading to a backlog of livestock and lower prices. Olymel lp, one of Canada's biggest hog packers, has temporarily closed an Alberta plant, forcing it to send some pigs to the United States.

Farmers' net cash income, a measure of profitability, jumped 21.8% in 2020 from the previous year to C$16.5 billion, driven by increased sales value of the main field crops, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said. Net cash income looks to climb another 6.8% this year to C$17.6 billion ($14.06 billion), the ministry said.

Livestock sales dipped 1.9% last year and the horticulture industry also struggled, the farm ministry said.

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Demand for Canadian barley has surged, with key buyer China in a trade dispute with usual supplier Australia. Spring wheat, another principal Canadian crop, are trading near more than three-year highs. ($1 = 1.2521 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; editing by David Evans)