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Federal funding to enable Soy Canada to learn more about growers

Study in 2017 identified market access and protein as two biggest risks to future growth

Soy Canada has been awarded $197,400 from the Canadian Agriculture Partnership to expand its knowledge of the country’s soybean growers to help plot ways to deal with 11 risks facing the sector identified in a 2017 study.

Expanding market access and striking a better balance in the protein produced across the country were pegged in the study as the two biggest risks to the crop’s continued phenomenal growth The new funding will support the development of a profile of the industry and how it can respond to them and other risks identified in the study.

Ron Davidson, executive director of Soy Canada, said, “Although soybean production in Canada increased by a phenomenal 131 per cent during the last decade, and now ranks third in terms of farm cash receipts, the continued success of the sector is directly contingent upon overcoming a series of significant challenges.”

Responding to the risks is complicated by a natural division, based on geography, climate and access to markets, the study said. Production in Central and Eastern Canada is well established and largely aimed at food-grade beans while in Western Canada expanding production mostly goes for domestic or overseas crushing.

“Soy Canada plays a critical role in bringing together organizations across the value chains in order to advocate for continued growth and efficiency of the industry, using a cohesive, co-ordinated approach.”

The market access risks require ongoing, long-term work by Soy Canada toward “biotech trait global approvals, pesticide MRLs, new breeding technology acceptance,” the study said. As well there needs to be a harmonization of scientific standards in the Europe and Pacific trade deals and in any potential agreement with China.

Among the many items in this risk response, the report pointed out a need to increase Western Canada protein and content through supporting provincial efforts to increase protein content via research and grower awareness. Soy Canada needs to work with seed companies and grain buyers and crushers to determine standard protocol for testing and publishing protein and oil content by variety.

Soy Canada will also continue to support “current efforts led by Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers and Westman Opportunities Leadership Group to attract a crush facility to Western Canada.”

In 2016, Canada produced about 6.5 million tonnes of soybeans yielding about $2.8 billion in farm cash receipts. Between 2005 and 2014, both the industry’s production and seeded area increased by 92 per cent, farm cash receipts grew by 201 per cent and exports climbed by 190 per cent.

More than 31,000 farms grow soybeans, which is now the fourth-largest principal field crop by acreage in Canada, with approximately three million hectares.

In 2015, canola brought in 25.3 per cent of the cash receipts, wheat 20 per cent, then soybeans at 5.8 per cent, followed by corn.

Soybeans contribute $5.6 billion to Canadian GDP, which is almost three per cent of the total agriculture and agri-food food portion of $108 billion GDP.

Ontario accounts for 52 per cent of the national production, Manitoba 27 per cent and Quebec 16 per cent.

Crushing soybeans for meal and oil makes up the largest proportion of the crop usage. In 2016, 1.9 million tonnes of meal and 350 tonnes of oil were processed. In addition to crush soybeans, there is a food-grade market for soybeans.

The report urged Soy Canada to continue work with CropLife Canada on improved and maintained access to crop protection products and promote resistance management strategies for both crush and food-grade varieties.

It should also strive to bring together the value chain together “to stimulate targeted investment into research priorities for the benefit of the sector nationally.”

It needs to find new markets for Canadian soybeans such as expanding food-grade markets in Asia; and support provincial efforts to increase protein content through research and grower awareness and with seed companies and grain buyers and crushers “determine standard protocol for testing and publishing protein and oil content by variety.”

Soy Canada should also partner with Japan Grain Inspection Association to facilitate testing of Canadian varieties for quality of tofu and other relevant food products.

It should investigate with trait developers and soybean crushers in Ontario “whether they see an opportunity to launch new high oleic oil profiles in Canada as a pilot market.”

The report said that “compared to several soybean-producing U.S. states, Ontario and Quebec have some of the highest production costs while Manitoba and Saskatchewan have some of the lowest.

Compared to U.S. growers, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec have moderate average yields, while Manitoba and Saskatchewan have the lowest average yields.

While globally “Canada has lower average soybean production and average yield compared to the major soybean-producing countries of the U.S., Brazil and Argentina, Canada experienced one of the highest growth rates.” It also had the highest variability in production and yield between 2000 and 2016.

During 2014-16, Ontario and Michigan had the highest protein content in North America, while Manitoba had the lowest protein content in the comparison. Oil content was moderately high for Ontario and Quebec, but Saskatchewan had the lowest oil content.

Canada crushes only 27 per cent of its harvest compared to 35 to 49 per cent in the other countries and between 2012-16, imported 39 per cent of its meal supply and exported 60 per cent of its soybean production as oilseeds, as opposed to processing them and exporting them. Most of the soybean meal created in Canada goes for livestock feed.

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