In the overall economics of agriculture on the Canadian Prairies oats are not a major driver of things.
Oats are not on the same level as canola, or wheat, or even barley. Canada produces about three million tonnes of high quality oats each year, and is the largest exporter of oats in the world. Western Canada represents nearly 90 per cent of Canada’s oat production.
However, that does not mean that oats are not an important crop for certain producers and certain communities.
For individual producers, such as those who are active members of the Prairie Oats Growers Association (POGA), oats are a crop they have found works on their farms.
In the case of communities, oats are a crop which is processed here on the Prairies. There are a number of oat milling facilities across the west sourcing local oats to process typically into rolled oats, which are in turn used is a wide range of products starting of course with a hearty breakfast many have enjoyed for years.
So a recent government announcement has to be looked at as a generally positive one, at least among those in the oat sector.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and Agri-Food, and Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness and MP for Regina-Wascana, recently announced an investment of up to $1,982,915 for POGA to improve oat varieties for the Canadian oat industry.
"A profitable oat industry benefits producers, processors and consumers, and gives farmers one more crop for their rotation. Scientific innovations in the crop, such as the development of oat varieties with better agronomic traits, are an important way to grow the industry,” stated Goodale in the release.
According to the press release announcing the investment, “this project aims to develop new oat cultivars suited for production in western Canada. The cultivars developed will have end-use quality identified by the industry, and will carry genetic resistance to major diseases, pests and adverse environmental and changing climatic conditions.”
This is an important goal for the oat sector. When a crop is not a major one, it becomes more difficult to entice the private sector to invest in varietal work. There is simply less likelihood of making money on the investment because of the smaller potential market.
But oats have a market, and new varieties are important to stay current with the agronomics as they exist today.
“The breeding work being done in Brandon at the AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) location would not be possible without the continued support of the Government of Canada and all the industry funders including Austgrains, Emerson Milling, FP Genetics, General Mills, Grain Millers, POGA, Richardson International and SeCan. In order to ensure oats remain a viable and competitive option for our producers in Western Canada (and continues to support a significant value added industry), continued investment in varietal improvements is essential. The investment is a true demonstration of the collaboration of the oat industry and its dedication to continue to deliver this healthy, safe and nutritious product into the homes of consumers across the globe,” stated Jenneth Johanson, president, POGA, in the release.
The project is funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriScience Program, which aims to advance the growth and profitability of the sector by accelerating innovation through support for pre-commercial science activities and cutting-edge research.