Oil content of canola hits industry target

Upward trend | Early returns from 2013 crop show average oil content of 45.1 percent

There has been much hoopla about canola meeting its 2015 production target two years ahead of schedule, but the industry could achieve another equally ambitious goal this year.

The mean oil content of the 1,088 canola samples analyzed by the Canadian Grain Commission as of Oct. 21 was 45.1 percent.

The target established by the Canola Council of Canada in Growing Great 2015, a guiding vision for the industry developed in 2007, was an average oil content of 45 percent.

“It’s a tremendous achievement by the industry as a whole,” said Rick White, general manager of the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

Not that long ago, people used to refer to canola as a crop that was 40 percent oil and 60 percent meal. Those days appear to be long gone.

The oil content number bounces around from year to year, but in general there has been a distinct upward trend. White said the recent 10-year average is close to 44 percent.

It is happening at the same time that yields and production are on the rise. Statistics Canada in September forecast 16 million tonnes of production this year, well above the industry goal of 15 million tonnes by 2015.

Weber Commodities Inc. said Statistics Canada in the final December report has revised the canola number up in each of the past seven years by an average of 1.5 million tonnes, so the goal could be obliterated two years ahead of schedule.

Veronique Barthet, program manager of oilseeds at the Canadian Grain Commission, believes this year’s impressive oil content average is the result of better genetics and superb growing conditions.

“If you removed the moisture, you could have 50 percent oil in some of the samples, so it’s pretty high,” she said.

The commission has analyzed two-thirds of the samples it anticipates it will receive this year.

Most of the Manitoba samples are in, and the vast majority of the remaining one-third will come from Saskatchewan and Alberta, where oil content is usually higher. As a result, there’s a good chance the number will stay above 45 percent, although nothing is certain.

The oil content in this year’s crop is nearly two percent higher than last year’s crop. Barthet suspects that is because July was milder than July 2012. Canola doesn’t like the heat.

“The planting was a bit delayed, but the weather was good for a long time, and that’s what is doing it,” she said.

This year’s oil content will rival the record of 45.2 percent set in 2011 if it stays at the current level. That is prompting calls for the introduction of oil-based price premiums.

The Canadian Canola Growers Association has investigated the idea but doesn’t think it is worth pursuing.

For one thing, the industry would have to equip elevators with machines to measure oil content, and they would have to be regularly calibrated, which is expensive.

“In our view, farmers are getting paid for oil content. It does come through either the futures price that is being offered or the basis levels that are being offered,” said White.

He doesn’t believe the extra expense would be worth it, considering growers are already paid for their efforts.

Another problem is that some farmers would win and some would lose. Who wins and who loses would be largely predicated on weather conditions.

“Really, what it does is put the risk of oil content directly onto the individual farmer, and that’s a risk that they really can’t manage very well because it is so environmentally driven,” said White.

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