Quebec passes Saskatchewan in organic farms

Greenhouse vegetable farms saw the greatest increase in the proportion of organic farms. Photo: Canstock

Commodity News Service Canada – Saskatchewan has lost its position as the province in Canada with the most organic farms — to Quebec.

According to Statistics Canada’s latest release from the 2016 Census of Agriculture, Quebec overtook Saskatchewan with 1,268 farms in 2016, compared to 879 in Saskatchewan.

From 2011-16, the number of organic operations in Saskatchewan fell 17.4 per cent, from 1,064. The report compares 2016 numbers with the previous census in 2011.

Saskatchewan organic crop-type operations posted the heaviest decline with a fall of 79 farms during the timeframe. That number includes grain and oilseed farms.

Statistics Canada attributed the Saskatchewan decline to a combination of factors:

  • Poor prices for organic products during the 2008-11 global recession, which may have made growers wary;
  • Price volatility;
  • Long transition times before certification;
  • Stronger prices for conventional products.

Quebec retained its spot as the province with the highest percentage of organic farms compared to its overall farm numbers with 4.4 per cent reporting organic sales. That’s double the national rate of 2.2 per cent.

Across Canada, the number of organic farms appears to be on the rise, even though the number of certified organic farms decreased by 50 from 2011-16. Farm operations in transition increased by 226 to 769 operations in 2016.

Overall, 4,289 farms reported selling organic products or were in organic transition in 2016, compared to 4,120 in 2011.

An organic farm is defined by StatsCan as being an agricultural operation that sells organic product, certified or in transition.

Grain and oilseed farms made up the highest proportion of organic farms, with 1,278 farms accounting for 29.8 per cent of organic operations in the country. However, that accounts for just two per cent of the total grain and oilseed farms in Canada.

Horticulture operations were most likely to be organic, as a percentage of the overall sector. In greenhouse vegetable production, 16.7 per cent of growers representing 138 farms produced organic products for sale. That business passed mushroom operations for the highest proportion of organic operations in 2016.

Greenhouse vegetable farms also logged the greatest increase in the proportion of organic farms with 16.7 per cent of those operators producing organic goods in 2016, compared to 13.4 per cent in 2011.