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Sask farmers show interest in vegetables as value rises, canola facing possible regulations

Click to play video: 'Chinese canola rule could drive farmers to plant more profitable vegetables'
Chinese canola rule could drive farmers to plant more profitable vegetables
Chinese canola rule could drive farmers to plant more profitable vegetables – Mar 11, 2016

CRAVEN, Sask. – Shawn Hansen’s farming operation, Craven Riverside Gardens Inc., is one of the biggest for vegetable production in Saskatchewan but he says recent years haven’t been easy.

With increased costs for labour, transportation and packaging – plus consistently bad growing weather – vegetable producers have had a hard time making ends meet.

That is now turning around, as store prices have caught up with production costs. According to Statistics Canada, the cost of fresh vegetables in Saskatchewan has increased 30.7% over the past year.

READ MORE: Food prices surge as vegetable costs spike 18.2%: Statscan

It is a steep hike for consumers, but a welcome change for farmers.

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“I think it’s good where it is,” Hansen said.

“Hopefully we can hold those prices. If we hold those prices we’ll do well.”

The appeal of vegetables has some farmers diversifying their crops. The Saskatchewan Vegetable Growers Association suggests there could be 10% increase in planting this year. This comes as one of the province’s staple crops – canola – is facing major uncertainty.

China, the receiver of 30% of Canada’s canola exports, wants to reduce the amount of dockage, or removable foreign material, on Canadian canola to 1%. The national standard set by the Canadian Grain Commission is currently 2.5%.

The Canola Council of Canada says that while that sounds like a small change, it could cause big problems for the industry if made official.

“It takes a lot of time to clean grain. It would slow down our grain handling transportation system and that would really impact our ability to meet customer’s requirements on a timely basis,” President of the Canola Council of Canada, Patti Miller, said.

“It’s about $2.6 billion and $2 million of that is seed, so it’s a very significant market for us.”

Now, interest in vegetables has many farmers taking a closer look, though Hansen says switching to the labour-intensive produce industry a difficult transition.

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“For a lot of small growers I would say start small, because when you make small mistakes they’re small mistakes. You start big, you make big mistakes and it’s harder to recover.”

READ MORE: What the low Canadian dollar means for Saskatchewan producers

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