By Jade Markus
Demand for organic oilseeds is high, one industry specialist says, which is keeping prices for flax steady and strong, while soybeans lag.
Increased interest in alternative oil sources is driving demand for oilseeds, said Laura Telford, organic sector development specialist at Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.
People want healthy oils, and they think that flax and hemp are healthy oils. – Laura Telford
“So they’re really giving the traditional oils, like olive oil, a run for their money.”
Flax prices have been consistently strong for the past two years, Telford added. Spot prices for organic flax in the Prairies are about C$36 to C$40 per bushel for brown, and about C$35 to C$40 for yellow.
Strong demand has extended to soybeans, but prices are relatively low, Telford said.
U.S. production was good last year, she said, which caused Canadian prices to soften.
Organic soybean prices are about C$28 per bushel in Ontario, while Prairie feed-grade soybeans are about C$17 a bushel. Telford said that is low for soybeans. “That’s driven down recently.”
A limited number of producers and traders in Canada is likely another factor driving prices lower.
“It’s just kind of finding the right people to work with that can be a difficulty,” said Tristan Gill, commodity trader at Westaqua Commodity Group Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The pulse market remains strong, which reflects a global shortage, Telford said.
Organic lentil prices are steady on the month, with large greens at C$0.90 per pound and French greens at C$0.85 per pound.
The conventional pulse sector is expected to see a hearty increase in seeded area, according to early estimates from Statistics Canada.
“I suspect that there will be a larger organic pea and lentil crop going into the ground this year as well,” Telford said.
Both conventional and organic pulses are seeing strong demand, she said, adding that the United Nations General Assembly’s declaration of 2016 as the International Year of Pulses may have driven attention toward the market.
“Any pulses are going to continue to have good strength,” Gill said.
Yellow peas will be easier to move than green peas this year, he added.
Green peas are often more susceptible to bleaching, thus from an appearance point-of-view they are sometimes considered less attractive to buyers.
Hard red spring wheat prices are steady, while durum and soft white wheat markets have moved higher with increased demand.
“That soft white wheat market has actually popped up a little bit,” said Scott Shiels, grain procurement merchant at Grain Millers, Inc. in Saskatchewan.
Prices have moved higher with increased demand and limited availability for the commodity, he said. “The people who do have a little bit left are going to make out OK with it.”
Spot prices for organic soft white wheat are about C$23 a bushel.
Increased demand for soft white wheat has likely been driven by the baking sector, Telford said.
Soft white wheat is often used for light baked goods, like cookies and pie crusts.
Despite increased imports in recent years, demand for organic hard red spring wheat has remained steady, and prices are about C$19 to C$20 a bushel in Western Canada.
“Which is pretty decent,” Telford said. “I think prices are in a good place right now, and fairly stable.”
Durum demand has seen a slight uptick, said Eric Fast, crop production and buying at Nature’s Organic Grist in Minnesota.
“It’s generally just gotten on forward contracts, but we’ve recently purchased some more,” he said.
Nature’s Organic Grist has been buying durum at U.S.$18.50, or about C$24.20.
Feed grains have been trending lower for the past two months, led by weaker U.S. corn and soy prices, and reduced demand.
Organic feed corn is US$7.72, or about C$10.05, per bushel as of May 25, compared with last year, when prices were US$12.84 or about C$16.72, according to United States Department of Agriculture data.
“That’s dragging everything down, especially barley, I would say,” Telford said.
Canada uses more barley in feed than corn.
Increased corn imports in the U.S., and competition from competing growing regions have caused U.S. markets to move lower.