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Canola growers think big

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The canola growers' ambitious goal will require a huge hike in productivity.

BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

The canola growers' ambitious goal will require a huge hike in productivity.

The Canadian canola industry has an impressive track record of setting targets and exceeding them.

On Thursday, the Canadian Canola Council marshalled the troops and announced its latest round of ambitious goals for 2025 -- 26 million tonnes of production and a yield of 52 bushels per acre.

Using the tag line "52 by 2025" Patti Miller, president of the CCC, said, "The task is formidable, the goals and targets are bold and success is far from assured."

But the industry has done a good job in the past, easily making it to seven millions tonnes in 2007 and hitting 15 million tonnes way before its target date of 2015 set in 2010.

Last year's bumper crop was 19.8 million tonnes and the western Canadian crop has averaged 15 million tonnes per year for the past three years.

The industry believes all the stars continue to align in its favour in terms of global demand, scientific research and the general level of enterprise among the 43,000 canola producers in the country.

Terry Youzwa, a producer from Saskatchewan and chairman of the CCC, said the industry has established three priorities to achieve the new targets based on sustainability and scientific research, more targeted marketing and more leadership in achieving barrier-free global trade policies.

He said the additional tonnage -- which represents an 82 per cent increase over the 2011 and 2012 crops -- will not necessarily require a substantial increase in acreage for it to be achieved.

But it will require an impressive increase in productivity. In 2013's massive crop, there was an average yield of 40 bushels per acre.

But Neil Arbuckle, head of Monsanto Canada's canola business and a member of the board of directors of the CCC, said, "Under the right conditions, many growers are already getting 50 bushels per acre consistently."

Increasing global demand for canola oil for food and meal for animal feed is crucial to the Canadian industry because more than 80 per cent of the annual production is exported.

An independent study commissioned by the CCC predicts global demand will increase to 250 million tonnes by 2025 from about 150 million tonnes in 2015.

Miller said the industry's collaborative approach combined with focused goal-setting has proven to be a winning formula.

"That has been an important fundamental part of the success of the industry," Miller said. "We work together as a value chain. We set targets, measure progress and achieve results. The measurement against goals is critical."

Transportation issues dealing with the large Prairie crop have been the biggest issue for the industry to contend with this year.

Youzwa said it's just another piece of infrastructure investment the industry hopes to muster in the coming years.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2014 B6

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