Organic demand mostly quiet, though feed grains seen strong

Dry conditions on the Prairies and wet conditions in the East have created higher demand for feed grains such as oats. Photo: Greg Berg

By Marlo Glass
Glacier FarmMedia staff

Demand for organic crops has been muted across Canada, adding to a complicated 2019 growing season. along with unpredictable weather in the east and west.

Scattered rains across the Prairies in June boosted selling activity slightly, though many buyers are covered from the previous year’s stocks.

“It was a pretty good crop last year, so most buyers have almost all their needs taken care of,” explained Scott Shiels of Grain Millers Canada Corp. in Yorkton, Sask.

Shiels noticed a correlation between growing conditions improving and buying activity picking up. Due to the prolonged dry conditions that were characteristic of most of the spring and early summer, some producers were holding on to their products.

“Guys are OK with having grain in the bin when conditions are like that,” he remarked.

“Now that crops are doing better, a bit more grain is moving.”

The feed grain market has been strong because it’s so dry here… – Richard Reimer

Demand for oats has remained steady, agreed Richard Reimer of Growers International Organic Sales in Winnipeg, Man.

“The feed grain market has been strong because it’s so dry here, and the east has had so much rain,” he explained.

Feed barley prices are between C$7.25 and C$9.15 per bushel, and feed wheat prices are between C$9.50 and C$12. Feed peas are around C$13 per bushel, and corn is in the range of $12.

Reimer believed recent rains in the Prairies might improve yield outcomes, though not to the point where prices will soften.

Andrew St. Jean, organic manager for Beechwood Agri Services in Parkhill, Ont., said weather woes in the east have left markets “very pessimistic” about crops. However, carryover from previous years has kept prices consistent.

“The buyer side is saying they want prices to be lower, but the grower side wants prices to be higher, so I’m not seeing a lot of grain moving at the moment,” said St. Jean.

In Ontario, organic soybean prices are between C$20 and C$29 per bushel, which compares to conventional prices of around $11.75.

“The market changes quickly, and I don’t know if prices have caught up to current market conditions,” he remarked.

Jason Freeman, general manager of Organic Trade Solutions in Regina, Sask. believes supply might outpace demand slightly this year.

“We’re just going to see what prices are like at harvest, and that will depend on how growing conditions turned around,” he commented.

“If it’s a decent year, I think prices are going to sag a bit.”

Freeman noted that demand for organic products has been growing year-over-year, and organic market participants generally think the future is bright.

Increased consumer demand is partially spurred in part by numerous high-profile law suits against Bayer Crop Science regarding glyphosate usage. Farmer Direct Organic Foods has begun testing crops for glyphosates and other seasonal pesticides in response to this.

Additionally, Grain Millers Canada Corp. is building another mill in Yorkton, Sask., anticipating increased demand for organic grains.

“We’ll probably be back in the market for some new crop in the summer,” remarked Shiels.

“If conditions happen to turn back around and we get back into a drier situation, we might get back into the market a little sooner.”