Canola continues to be the darling of cash crops grossing Canadian farmers $5.6 billion in 2010 – more than any other crop, according to Statistics Canada.
“Canola has become the most profitable crop for Prairie growers,” Canola Council of Canada president JoAnne Buth told the council’s 44th annual meeting here July 28. “That’s why they wanted to seed almost 20 million acres this spring.”
In comparison farm cash receipts from “all wheat” – the second-highest earner – was $3.9 billion.
Cash receipts from all crops totalled $22.4 billion in 2010, with earnings from canola accounting for one-quarter of it.
It’s no wonder then that canola production has doubled from 5.8 million tonnes in 2001-02 to 11.8 million last crop year.
If all goes well, western Canadian farmers could harvest 13 million tonnes of canola this fall, Buth said, despite a wet spring, which either delayed or even prevented seeding in many areas.
The council’s goal of producing 15 million tonnes of canola by 2015 appears easily in reach.
The demand for vegetable oils, including canola, continues to increase in part because of rising world population, several speakers said.
Biodiesel is also a growing market.
Some experts wonder if 15 million tonnes will be enough to meet the demand.
Canola is a success because it provides solutions, Buth said. It’s already established a reputation for being “heart healthy” with the lowest saturated fat content among vegetable oils, but there’s evidence it can aid in the fight against diabetes.
“There seems to be provocative evidence that canola oil may be metabolized differently thereby influencing body weight and obesity,” Buth said. “So clearly canola oil is part of healthy solutions.”
Other research indicates consuming canola oil might reduce inflammation, which is linked to chronic disease as well as boost vascular function, she said.
Not only is canola farmers’ most important crop, but it’s important to Canada, contributing $15.4 billion to the economy and creating 228,000 direct and indirect jobs, Buth said, citing a report prepared for the council.
Canola is a success because the entire value chain is represented through the council, she said. The council, which includes everyone from farmers and seed developers to crushers and exporters, sets targets, embraces innovation, and stays nimble, she said.
To remain successful the council must continue its focus on research and development improving canola production, as well as the oil and meal, Buth said. Farmers have tightened their canola rotations – one of the pitfalls of success, she said. Farmers need ways to deal with the pests as a result.
The council must also work to maintain access to its key markets, Buth said.
Lowe Farm-area farmer Butch Harder told Buth during a question period the council needs to be prepared for the impact ending the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on sales of non-feed will have on Canada’s grain sector. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says farmers will make so much more money growing wheat they’ll plant more. That could reduce canola production, while making it harder to ship canola, Harder said.
Harder also raised concerns about the rising cost of production for canola. He said last year the most profitable crops on his farm were wheat, soybeans and then canola.
Buth said the council’s board has discussed the pending changes.
“It’s a matter of staying focused and staying nimble,” she said.
In an interview later Buth said nobody knows what impact changes to the CWB will have.
“I think it’s all based on demand and we have really good demand for veg oils and I think that’s going to continue as we’ve heard over the last couple of days,” she said.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing that wheat is also making (farmers) more money because they’re the same growers and we need wheat in the rotation.”
Harder confirmed later his remarks were tongue in cheek. He said he doesn’t believe wheat prices will be higher in an open market. Harder noted that wheat plantings are falling in the United States even though it has no wheat board. Meanwhile soybeans acres are increasing, he said. [email protected]