Promoting Canadian Oats

Canadian oat growers have faced varying conditions in transportation, crop conditions, and seeding area for the last three decades. However, across varying growing conditions and demands, Canadian farmers have consistently produced oats, and have transformed the crop from a primarily domestic product into a major Canadian export.

Oat yields have been increasing and the result has been higher production while total acreage has been stable in the past decade. Total acreage is currently approximately 1.3 million hectares (3.25 million acres), with a high of 2.15 million hectares (5.3 million acres) in 2007-08.

In 2015-16, seeded area is projected at 1.25 million hectares (3.1 million acres), and yield continues to remain near 3.0 tonnes per hectare (77.8 bushels per acre). That level is well above prior average yields.

2013-14’s yield of 3.5 t/ha (90.7 bu/acre) shattered the previous high of 2.9 (75.2 bu/acre) and already 3.0 (77.8 bu/acre) is looking like the new normal.

Fluctuations and overall trends in yield gains and losses across all Canadian crops are similar to those in oats. Both oats and the overall Principal Field Crop yields are experiencing an upward trend in yield, however oat yields are increasing at a rate faster than the overall level. If oats can continue this rate of yield gains moving forward, then larger production levels such as those experienced in 2013-14 could become the norm.

Over the last few decades, Canadian oat farmers have turned oats from a domestic crop into a major Canadian export. In 1982, exports accounted for 3.2% of Canadian oat usage. This year, exports will account for 69% of Canadian oat usage.

The significant increase in oats as an export commodity has been accomplished with stable production levels over the past 33 years. As seen from 1982 to 1987, oat production averaged 3.0 million tonnes (194.4 million bushels), which is the same average level as 2010 to 2015. The success of transforming Canadian oats into an export crop positions oats as an important part of prairie farming.

Domestic processing of oats in Canada has declined as U.S milling has increased. After reaching a high of 207,000 metric tonnes in 1996 (13.4 million bushels), food and industrial usage plateaued for 3 years, and declined to a forecasted 85,000 metric tonnes (5.5 million bushels) for the 2015 crop year. As expected, feed, waste and dockage mirrored this trend.

From 2011 through to the 2015 crop forecast, oat export levels rose 2.2 million tonnes (142.5 million bushels) and remained stable with a slight decline to 2.1 million tonnes (136.0 million bushels). The stability of exports has resulted in an increase in production levels from 2.8 million to 3.9 million tonnes (181.1 million bushels to 252.7 million bushels).

As is indicated by the numbers, the market conditions for, and the production of, Canadian oats have changed dramatically over the past 30 years. The increase in exports, decrease in domestic food and industrial usage, and feed, waste & dockage, and gains in yield have all resulted in oats becoming one of the more stable and reliably produced and marketed grains in Canada.

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