Potential for crops other than canola

When it comes to agriculture there always seems a mix of good news and bad news floating around the sector.

Certainly there has been a swirl of concern regarding the impact of the federal carbon tax on the cost farmers are incurring this year drying grain that was taken off in less than ideal condition due to weather.

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That situation was made more tenuous for a day, or two as propane supplies looked threatened by a rail strike, but that cloud has seemed to pass.

At the same time the grain drying concerns swirled a story in the Western Producer about Canadian wheat selling to China caught my eye.

To start with it was not a story of doom in terms of trade with China, and that is a key in trade based on population which of late has had some political level beefs with this country which have disrupted trade.

By contrast this was a huge good news story, at least in terms of the wheat trade. It reported how Canadian wheat sales to China jumped to 1.75 million tonnes last year from a more typical 500,000 to 700,000 tonnes in previous years.

A one-year upswing is good, but often is an anomaly based in any number of factors.

In this case the article suggests the higher import volumes might become the more the normal level of trade if China changes the way it administers the tariff rate quota to be in line with its World Trade Organization obligations, a situation that apparently in under way.

That is big news for Canada because there is a need for a crop other than canola to become valuable enough in terms of trade that it entices farmers to grow it. Canola has carried the day for several years now but the reliance on the crop tends to push crop rotations and that can ultimately lead to greater issues in terms of weeds, bugs and disease.

Similarly, there was also a story at the Western Producer online edition that looked at hemp as a crop that could provide an alternative to canola.

It is good that the sector continues to look at alternate crops, and with hemp there does seem to be a huge potential market developing. However, years following the sector recall a lot of new crops that were going to become important cash crops as markets developed. In many cases the markets never quite came into play, or were decidedly small making the crops too niche in nature to fully impact the sector.

Still, as it stands, hemp holds a great deal of potential as we move toward a greener future, and the agriculture sector needs its good news stories right now.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week

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