Letters to the editor – September 6, 2018

Oats sector still doing well

Re: “Funding loss a blow to oat research” and “Ag economist questions future of oats,” (WP, July 19).

Farming, along with all other industries, does not occur without its share of challenges. However, oat growers feel positive about the outlook for Canadian oats.

We are obliged to correct a statement made by Richard Gray saying, “you’re finding less acres of oats as there was in the past.” In fact, the number of seeded oat acres in Western Canada has been holding steady for more than eight years.

In addition, in spite of receiving less total funding dollars than Canada’s larger acre crops, oat yield increases per acre are outperforming many crops, such as wheat, barley and others. (Charts are available at www.poga.ca). Oat quality also continues to increase with higher beta glucan varieties being developed, proving that the research, production and marketing efforts have been successful.

Art Enns, POGA president, shares: “Canadian Oat Growers have a number of private companies we work with using worldwide germplasm. Due to this combined effort, the oat market enjoys much-needed variety development to combat disease and continue to increase yield and producer profitability. POGA is leveraging this advantage and increasing its market share, most recently in Mexico where oat imports have been the highest in history in the past three years.

As one of the largest oat millers in the world, Quaker’s elimination of all oat breeding funding for Western Canada is definitely a blow to our growers and the entire industry, but Canadian oat growers are resilient and the other industry members have already stepped up to make sure Canadian oat growers can continue to be successful.”

There are many reasons that countries display increasing interest in Canadian oats. Qualities such as gluten-free and heart-healthy are reasons oats are sometimes called a “super food.” Demand is increasing two to three percent per year for human food, a consistent and dependable growth pattern. One example of growth is China, where oat imports have increased about 55 times since 2006. Obviously, marketing opportunities for oats are expanding, not shrinking.

Brad Boettger, Alberta chairman, is aware of the benefits when all players within the industry partner.

Boettger states: “By combining the funding from the industry and Canadian-provincial governments, the entire oat industry benefits from huge returns on investment. For example, POGA members pay less than 20 percent of total research projects due to leveraged funding. There is a ripple effect on the entire industry when a company chooses to go it alone, reducing overall funding by eliminating matching opportunities. However, Canada remains the largest oat exporter in the world and growers will speak to the value of oats through their sales decisions.”

While oat growers are disappointed that Quaker has withdrawn Canadian oat breeding funding and chosen to refocus their breeding investments in the U.S.A., and that federal governmental funding agencies have decreased their percentage of breeding funding for all crops, we do not foresee a dismal future for oats. Actually, international market opportunities for this healthy “super food” continue to grow.

Western Canadian oat growers receive breeding program support from every other major oat miller and many other industry partners. The entire oat industry is a vibrant community that dedicates itself to all aspects of the oat value chain. When we experience a challenge, we do not throw in the towel but continue to build on what is working well. Much is working extremely well in our industry, and our oat growers, with the majority of the industry, will continue to ensure that it continues to.

Shawna Mathieson, executive director
on behalf of the Prairie Oat Growers Association board of directors
Regina, Sask.

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