“The trick is going to be to produce it year after year so that it will average 15 million tonnes.”
– JOANNE BUTH
2 008 was a dream year for Canada’s Cinderella crop with records falling all over the place.
Farmers harvested a record canola crop, with near-record oil content, after planting a record number of acres and harvesting record yields, Canola Council of Canada president JoAnne Buth said in an interview last week.
“What last year shows is that we can produce more (canola),” she said. “The trick is going to be to produce it year after year so that it will average 15 million tonnes.”
The Canola Council’s goal is to see farmers produce 15 million tonnes of canola annually by 2015.
“I think the 12.6 million tonnes we produced is a really good indication we can get there. We might get there sooner than we expected. But in 2015 we hope it is consistent supply and demand of 15 million tonnes.”
Canola exports of 5.77 million tonnes, domestic crushing of 4.36 million tonnes and prices also set records in 2008.
Canola was the top earner of grain-generated farm cash receipts in 2008 (based on sales of the 2007-08 crop) at $4.9 billion, inching out wheat (excluding durum) at $4.36 billion. (Farm cash receipts from all-wheat sales totalled $5.77 billion.)
Despite record canola production in 2008, canola prices are still relatively good, Buth said, noting other crop prices have come down from last year too.
Meanwhile, Buth said domestic crushers continue to work at 95 per cent capacity and she expects record canola exports again in the current crop year. In the first six months of 2008-09 (August-January) Canada exported 3.55 million tonnes of canola – 800,000 tonnes ahead of the same time last year. Most of the increase went to China, which has imported more than one million tonnes this crop year.
During the previous five crop years Canadian canola exports to China averaged just 577,000 tonnes.
Record yields, averaging 34.7 bushels an acre, also bode well for reaching the 15-million-tonne production target by 2015. That’s two bushels an acre better than the previous record set in 2005-06 and well above the 10-year average of 27.4.
Buth credits last year’s success to good varieties, good weather and good farmers.
“We had moisture at the right time and we had moderate temperatures dur ing flowering,” she said. “It wasn’t too hot. And thank heavens we had an open fall because things had gone in late in places. But it’s also, I think, that growers are experienced with canola.”
The bigger Canada’s canola crop and the exports that follow, the more seed companies will invest in developing even better canola varieties, “which keeps us competitive,” Buth said.
“Crop growers have a variety of choices so we’re really focused on making sure the growers are going to be profitable (growing canola).”
It looks like canola will continue to be a popular crop in 2009. In its March 6 Grains and Oilseeds Outlook Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) predicted farmers will sow a record 17 million acres – up a million from last year’s record planting. However, Buth said the trade is skeptical.
Despite increased plantings AAFC is forecasting slightly lower production in 2009. It also sees increased exports and domestic crushing due to lower canola prices.
Some of those exports could end up in the European Union (EU) – a market lost to Canadian canola starting in 1997 because the EU had not approved genetically modified canola.
Canadian canola exports to the EU varied until then, but during the five years before GM canola was banned averaged 445,250 tonnes, representing 18 per cent of Canadian canola exports.
Earlier this year the EU made the final changes in regulations that will lift that ban. The door is open, but Canadian canola isn’t being exported to the EU because the price is too high, relative to other suppliers, such as Ukraine, Buth said. Ukraine is increasing its canola production, which could hurt future Canadian sales to the [email protected]