The high quality of Canadian-produced soybeans has led to development of some niche, and high-premium-paying, customers for the crop during the 2012-13 crop year -- and expectations are for this feat to be repeated in the 2013-14 season starting at the end of this month.
Federal funding of roughly $90,000 allowed the Canadian Soybean Council to work with the Canadian International Grain Institute, to further develop interest in Canadian-made soybeans in Japan and Thailand during the 2012-13 crop year, said Nicole Mackellar, a project co-ordinator with the Canadian Soybean Council.
As an example, she said the funding allowed the Guelph-based council -- founded by the growers' groups in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba -- to invite 11 delegates that were part of Japan's National Federation of Tofu and Industry Trade to Canada. The delegates represent the small- to medium-sized tofu manufacturers in Japan and account for roughly 65 per cent of Japan's tofu supply.
"The representatives, some of who had never been to Canada, were shown first-hand what the Canadian soybean industry is all about and what makes Canadian soybeans superior to our competitors," Mackellar said.
They got to tour soybean processing facilities to see first-hand the safety requirements and food quality standards that are in place after the farmer deliveries those soybeans to the commercial elevator system.
The representatives also got the opportunity to meet with key soybean producers from each of the main growing provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, and see directly what farmers do to grow those soybeans, along with the equipment used for planting, harvesting and spraying.
"We were also quite fortunate this year that during their visit they also were able to experience a farmer harvesting an identity-preserved soybean crop," she said.
Mackellar said these types of programs give Canada the advantage on the global market, especially in the providing of high-quality food-grade soybeans. She acknowledged Canada only provides two per cent of the world's soybeans and is only the seventh largest exporter of the crop.
Canada, she said, can provide genetically modified (GM) soybeans or non-GM identity-preserved soybeans.
However, it's niche countries such as Japan that exclusively seek out Canada's food-grade soybeans over competitors including the U.S. and South America.
Canada's ability to segregate, and to ensure the quality of soybeans required is delivered to the end-user's door, also provides an advantage over the other major exporting nations, Mackellar said.
"The visibility of our soybean growing and processing industry is second to none," she said, adding "Canada has one of the best, if not the best, segregation systems in the world, and that has allowed Canada to have a good opportunity to compete on the global market with the other larger soybean producers."
Part of the motivation for seeking out the niches in the food market is the high premiums paid for those products, she said. Japan was one of the countries willing to pay the premiums needed to allow farmers in Canada to grow that product.
The council, she said, had already applied to the federal government for funds to promote Canadian soybeans for 2013-14. She was unable to advise which different niche markets the council would target in the coming crop year.
Canadian Grain Commission statistics show that during the 2011-12 crop year, Canada exported a total of 1.964 million tonnes of soybeans, compared to the 2010-11 total of 2.035 million. CGC data for the 2012-13 crop year shows Canada had exported 2.219 million tonnes of soybeans as of the end of January. At the same time a year ago, Canada had shipped 1.399 million tonnes.
-- Dwayne Klassen writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.