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Soy Canada charts ambitious growth plan

The industry organization wants to see Canadian soybean production double in a decade

Soy Canada has unveiled a plan to encourage soybean production to nearly double to 10 million acres by 2027 and set in motion growth in the crushing sector rather than exporting raw beans.

Soy Canada’s directors have endorsed a comprehensive strategic market readiness plan that is the first “to involve the entire soybean value chain, including plant breeders, growers, exporters, processors and other value chain partners.”

The plan is intended to serve as a discussion paper during the next few months with all segments of the soybean sector in Canada.

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Soy bean seeds on a white background

Last year, 7.7 million tonnes of soybeans were harvested nationally. Ontario at 3.7 million tonnes and Manitoba at 2.2 million tonnes dominate the sector followed by Quebec and Saskatchewan. Alberta is expected to become a bigger player in the future.

Under the plan, seeded acreage in Eastern Canada will reach four million acres in a decade up from the current 3.6 million acres while Western Canada should see six million acres in soybeans in 2027 compared to 1.9 million acres seeded in 2017.

Building on a base

The sector has a solid foundation for increased production in its skilled growers, a natural environment, a strong value chain “heavily invested” in seed, food and feed research and innovation, a strong processing sector and a good international reputation, Soy Canada said.

“Working together, we can leverage these opportunities to grow our industry and make an even greater contribution to Canada’s economic growth,” Soy Canada said in the paper.

It wants the amount of food grade tonnes to reach 1.8 million in 2027 from the 1.25 million tonnes last year and processing capacity increased to the point where it can handle 2.5 million tonnes annually with the rest being exported.

Plant breeding is “dramatically changing the boundaries of where soybeans can be profitably cultivated in Canada,” it said. “New short-season varieties have expanded soybean acreage to new regions of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and significantly across Western Canada.

“Over the next decade, Soy Canada has set a yield growth target of five bu./acre. To achieve this target, growers will need the right yield-boosting tools, including new varieties with improved genetics, new plant protection products and improved agronomic practices. The entire industry will need to work in partnership to identify the greatest agronomic challenges faced by growers and the areas of discovery that offer the greatest potential return.”

Better practices

The increase in production can come while respecting the need to protect the environment, Soy Canada said.

“In the last 35 years, Canadian soybean growers have made substantial improvements in their environmental practices. Since 1981, their energy use has decreased by 26 per cent and the net greenhouse gas footprint per unit of soybean output has decreased by 17 per cent,” the industry paper reads.

To improve on that record, Soy Canada “will identify meaningful metrics and best practices for responsible environmental stewardship, as well as a plan to demonstrate that our industry is meeting these expectations. We will also explore opportunities to co-operate with other commodity groups on an approach that could extend across the Canadian agricultural economy.”

Soybeans have a strong future, Soy Canada said, noting in Asian markets, demand is growing for specialty products such as tofu, miso, tempe, natto and their end-use products. Demand has also been increasing in the U.S. and Europe, and will continue to grow in the years ahead, fuelled by consumer interest in high-quality soybean foods, vegetable protein sources, organic foods and functional foods.

“In Canada, value will be further kindled by the recently approved health claim for soyfoods,” the report said.

Among the objectives is increasing “both the production and exports of food grade, non-GMO soybeans by 25 per cent during the next 10 years.

Not easy

However, there are some tough issues to deal with. Crop protection options are more limited and quality standards are rigorous. Another is to ensure that the value of food grade soybeans remains high so that these specialty crops continue to be an attractive choice for growers.

Global imports of whole soybeans almost doubled between 2006 and 2015. The world soybean trade is projected to rise by 25 per cent during the next decade, climbing to 179 million tonnes.

“The value of Canadian soybean and soybean product exports doubled between 2009 and 2015 and has grown more than fourfold since 2006,” Soy Canada said.

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