Agriculture in the Heartland

CANADA IS THE WORLD’S FIFTH-LARGEST AGRICULTURAL EXPORTER at $26 billion annually or 5.7 per cent of global agricultural trade. Canada was the top exporter of wheat, canola, lentils, and canary seed in 2015. Last year Saskatchewan grew:

  • 6.2 million tonnes (about 86% of Canada’s durum
    and 34% of the world supply)
  • 9.8 million tonnes (about 53% of Canada’s canola
    and 34% of the world supply)
  • 2.7 million tonnes on record 5.8 million seeded acres
    (about 90% of Canada’s lentils and 61% of the world supply)
  • Saskatchewan grows about 99% of Canada’s chickpeas
  • Saskatchewan grows about 65% of Canada’s dry peas
    and 57% of the world supply
  • 202,000 tonnes of soybean
  • 153,000 tonnes of rye
  • 162,000 tonnes, about 72% of Canada’s mustard seed
    and 41% of the world supply
  • Saskatchewan grows 74% of Canada’s flax seed and
    55% of the world supply

Saskatchewan has 35,000 farms and in 2015 these agricultural producers generated $14 billion dollars in gross farm sales, which represents 20 per cent of Saskatchewan’s GDP. Over 60 million acres of farmland in Saskatchewan represent 40 per cent of total farmlands in Canada. Agriculture is big business in Saskatchewan and accounts for over 1/3 of Saskatchewan’s total exports. Saskatchewan’s average total crop production is around 29 million tonnes. (2013 was a record breaking year recording 38.4 million tonnes of crop production).

In the past ten years farm income grew by roughly $20 billion at the national level experiencing some tremendous growth. Farm incomes are projected to level out with farm cash receipts toughly in line with the record year of 2015.

Farmers are concerned carbon pricing could increase cost of inputs like fuel and fertilizer; as well as outputs, if companies that buy grain pass along their carbon tax to farmers. According to Agriculture Canada, 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse emissions are from crop and livestock production - carbon dioxide is released during soil cultivation, and methane is associated with cattle manure.

MOOSE JAW THE HEARTLAND OF THE PRAIRIES Local growers are producing both good quality and quantity crops given the 110 frost-free growing days and annual rainfall of 12 inches per year. This area is known for its high quality milling wheat, durum, canola and pulse crops. The Moose Jaw area is a dominant player in the world trade of pulse crops, such as peas, lentils and beans. Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba plus six northern U.S. states – no place on the globe can produce as much plant protein. Demand is growing for the high-protein legumes known as pulses for which Moose Jaw has become known.

FARMLAND CREATING WEALTH A Farm Credit Corporation (FCC) Report showed Saskatchewan had double digit year over year land price increases since 2011 (22.9 per cent in 2011; 19.7 per cent in 2012; 28.5 per cent in 2013, and 18.7 per cent in 2014). While 2015 land prices saw increases, land in almost half the province remained the same or decreased slightly. The land in areas where lentils are grown increased the most. FCC’s economist predicts a modest land value increase of between two and four per cent in 2016.

PULSE CROPS Plant Protein Demand is growing for high-protein legumes known as pulses, a major type of crop grown around the world, including lentils, peas, chickpeas, and some types of beans, such as faba bean, dry bean and soybean. Thirty-five years ago Saskatchewan farmers knew little about pulses let alone how to grow them. In 1981, Saskatchewan farmers grew about 85,000 acres of lentils. Within a decade this number increased to 450,000 acres and in 2016 hit a record 5.3 million acres seeded in pulses. Today Saskatchewan produces about 50 percent of the world’s lentils and 50 percent of the world’s peas. Yellow peas are the most widely grown peas in Saskatchewan followed by green peas and then specialty types such as dun, maple, marrowfat, and forage peas.

The advantages of growing lentils were hard to ignore and this new thinking started an agricultural revolution in Saskatchewan. Pulses’ unique properties make them a valuable replacement for summer fallow, traditionally a vital part of prairie crop rotation. By seeding lentils into wheat stubble, producers replenish diminished nutrients fixing nitrogen back into the soil.

CONSUMERS SEEK PRODUCTS WITH NO GLUTEN OR GENETICALLY MODIFIED INGREDIENTS. Pulses can be processed into fibre, flour starch and protein concentrates. Plant protein is now added to breakfast cereals and other snacks as health conscious consumers seek products with no gluten or genetically modified ingredients. Many of the major food companies, such as General Mills Inc., Fritolay Inc., Kraft Foods Group Inc., and Unilever Plc., have launched new products that contain pulses. The demand for protein-packed products using pulses is being added to everything from Triscuits to Cheerios. Popcorn is dusted with dehydrated vegetables and fruit and potato chips with a vegetable serving in each bag. This trend will continue to increase processing and export of locally grown dried peas, lentils and beans.

SASKATCHEWAN’S TOP THREE EXPORT DESTINATIONS INCLUDE UNITED STATES, CHINA, AND INDIA. Canada has about 12,000 pulse farmers exporting $1.1 billion in peas and lentils to India in 2016, a country where vegetarians eat legumes at almost every meal. Saskatchewan Pulse Growers says India is one of its largest markets growing by 20 per cent a year between 2010 and 2015, and accounting for about one third of all pulses exported in Canada. These are protein-rich crops are also popular in the Middle East, where eating meat is either unaffordable or religiously forbidden, where lentils are the protein of choice.

A recent regulation may put India off limits to Canadian pea and lentil exports as the Indian government will require crops to be fumigated. The Canadian Food Agency is working on a long-term solution.