Aquaculture dominates Canadian meal sales to China, but the industry wants to expand sales to hog producers
Chinese fish like to eat Canadian canola meal. About 80 percent of Canada’s canola meal exported to China is sold to fish farms.
Now, the canola industry is hoping pigs will also develop a taste for it.
To make that happen, the Canola Council of Canada invited Chinese aquaculture experts and swine nutritionists to Canada to share research and information on the benefits of canola meal in livestock and fish rations.
The goal of the tour, which happened in July, was to showcase the quality of Canadian canola meal and build upon a strong base of customers in China’s fish farm sector.
“Aquaculture would be the primary use (in China)…. One of the specialists who came over (for the tour) felt up to 80 percent of all the canola meal that comes from Canada would be used for aquaculture,” said Brittany Dyck, canola meal manager with the canola council.
The remaining 20 percent would be fed to pigs, ducks and a few tonnes to dairy cows, Dyck added.
The tour included a stop at the Port of Vancouver, and the Chinese experts met with scientists from Agriculture Canada, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Manitoba.
In 2017, Canada exported 1.05 million tonnes of canola meal to China, second only to 3.39 million tonnes to the United States, where dairy farms are the major buyer.
China also crushes its imports of Canadian canola seed and sells the meal to fish and livestock producers.
The problem with the aquaculture market is that it’s seasonal, typically from May until September in China, said Dyck.
China’s hog industry, which produces about half of the world’s pork, presents a major opportunity, if the Canada’s canola industry can convince Chinese pig producers to use more of it. Research has shown that canola meal can be used in the diets of finishing pigs because modern canola has low levels of glucosinolates, a compound found in the brassica family of plants that gives cabbage and mustard their bitter flavour.
“Due to advances in genetic improvements of canola that have led to production of cultivars with significantly lower ANF (Anti-nutritional factors) content and improved processing procedures, canola meal with a superior nutritive value for non-ruminant animals is now available,” a University of Manitoba academic paper said in 2016.
The evidence might say that canola meal is suitable for pigs, but only a few producers and swine experts in China are aware of the science.
Many associate canola with rapeseed, which is unsuitable for pig feed.
“Those glucosinolates still exist in rapeseed and some of that rapeseed is still grown in parts of the world (including China),” Dyck said. “When we’re in China, we’re really trying to differentiate Canadian canola as being a different crop and having a different nutritive profile than local Chinese rapeseed.”
Another challenge for canola meal is that soybean meal has a higher protein content, making it a more desirable product. Canola meal is not going to replace soybean meal in China’s swine industry, but there are opportunities to expand canola meal use and build market share, Dyck said.
The canola council is focusing some of its efforts on the southern province of Guangdong, which has a population of more than 100 million people.
“We sent a lot of canola meal to Guangdong. We also send a lot of canola seed to Guangdong,” Dyck said. “There is a lot of aquaculture happening in that province … (and there) is a lot of swine production. It’s an area … where there’s not a lot of use of canola meal in swine production.”
That’s why Dyck invited a swine specialist from Guangdong to be part of the council’s Canadian tour to spread good words about canola meal in Guangdong.
A DowDuPont innovation could also boost canola’s reputation. DowDuPont, which will soon have a separate agriculture company known as Corteva Agrisciences, has developed a new variety of canola with a higher percentage of protein in the seed.
The technology, called ProPound, produces a canola meal with protein content comparable to soybean meal. As acres expand, it will create a supply of high protein canola meal for the feed market.