2020 organics market characterized by strong demand

Photo: Thinkstock

By Marlo Glass
Glacier FarmMedia staff

MarketsFarm – Canada’s organic commodities market was characterized by strong demand in 2020. Before COVID-19 began dominating headlines, demand for organic pulses had been rising steadily. As the pandemic swept across North America, consumers rushed to fill their pantries with shelf-stable staples, including organic pulses and grains. Demand is expected to stay strong into 2021, as most of Canada hunkers down for a second wave of COVID-19.

“We’re hitting the hot oatmeal cereal time of year, and we’ve noticed good demand,” remarked Scott Shiels, grain procurement manager for Grain Millers of Canada in Yorkton, Sask.

He said prices were around C$7 per bushel for organic oats, which is about double the price of the conventional crop.

It’s looking rosy as far as demand goes. –  Jason Freeman

“Product is moving really rapidly with store and consumer demand, which has been quite strong throughout the pandemic.”

“It’s looking rosy as far as demand goes,” agreed Jason Freeman, the general manager of Farmer Direct Organic Foods in Mossbank, Sask.

However, Freeman noted, “there’s lots of acreage out there.” He said while market growth for organic commodities has been rapid, participants should be careful that supply doesn’t outpace demand.

“Our market is really starting to open up as organic, plant-based diets start to boom,” he said, noting conventional farmers may want to look into pulses such as lentils, and other specialty organic crops.

Black lentils are around 90 cents per pound, while green lentils are around 70 cents per lb. Yellow peas are between C$13 and C$16 per bushel, while green peas are around C$18.

Heading into 2021, organic producers will be watching the exchange rate between the Canadian and United States currency. In the last weeks of 2020, the Canadian dollar shot up dramatically due to comparable weakness in its U.S. counterpart, hitting its strongest levels in years at 78.8 U.S. cents. Some Canadian producers prefer to take payment in USD, so strength in the Canadian dollar is not seen as positive.

“Most black beans, for example, are grown in the U.S.,” explained Freeman.

“So most Canadian bean farmers accept USD.”

Canada’s currency is closely linked to global crude oil values, which have taken a beating by lockdowns and travel restrictions worldwide. However, crude oil prices have turned optimistic due to the widespread COVID-19 vaccine rollouts expected in 2021.