Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Canary seed one step closer to ‘official’ status

canary seed
(Photo courtesy Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan)

MarketsFarm — Canary seed may still be a relatively minor special crop in Western Canada, but the grain is one step closer to gaining official status.

Producers at the Canary Seed Development Commission of Saskatchewan annual general meeting on Monday in Saskatoon voted in favour of formally requesting canary seed’s inclusion under the Canada Grains Act.

The proposed regulatory change is not a change to the Act itself, but would bring canary seed under the licensing and bonding provisions of the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), according to the commission’s executive director, Kevin Hursh.

“Based on the result of the vote, the CSDCS board of directors has a clear mandate,” incoming board chair Darren Yungmann, who farms near St. Gregor, Sask., said in a release Tuesday.

“Letters will be sent to the Canadian Grain Commission and federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau to initiate the process to bring about this regulatory change.”

Once the request is formally made, the consultation process could take up to a year.

Hursh said some canary seed producers were wary of having canary seed fall under a grading system like other CGC licensed commodities, as the crop has never traded that way in the past.

However, he noted, buyers will continue to able to buy on any specifications they wish, while farmers will benefit from the added protection provided by CGC bonding.

While producers have raised the issue of covering canary seed through the CGC in the past, there was never a clear consensus on the issue. However, the bankruptcy of Saskatchewan pulse and canary seed buyer ILTA Grain in July led to the issue being revisited now.

While pulse growers were able to recoup much of their losses from unpaid deliveries through the CGC’s Safeguards for Grain Farmers program, Hursh noted 44 canary seed growers were left uncompensated.

“There’s no reason why canary seed shouldn’t have the same protection as other crops,” said Hursh.

While there may be some increased costs with the move, most of the companies dealing with canary seed are already licensed and bonded through dealing with other crops.

Hursh acknowledged there were concerns over the possibility of lower prices, but he didn’t expect to see any measurable effect.

Canary seed bids rose to their best levels in 10 years at harvest time this past fall, and remain near that 30 cents/lb. level in mid-January. Hursh expected those solid old-crop prices could encourage more acres in 2020, but added that new-crop pricing is still not widely available.

Canadian farmers seeded 243,400 acres of canary seed in 2019 and grew a 124,700-tonne crop, according to Statistics Canada data.

The acreage base was down slightly from the previous year, while total production marked the smallest canary seed crop since 2001 after an adverse harvest season.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin reports for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.

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