Posted  27 Mar, 2020 
In: Articles  |  News

Originally published March 27, 2020 on OrganicBiz

By Marlo Glass

Demand for Canadian organics was solid before COVID-19 began dominating headlines, and remains strong as consumers stock up on staple foods. However, the uncertainty of the situation has kept some caution in the market.

“As a grain milling company, business has been really good,” remarked Scott Shiels, manager of grain procurement at Grain Millers Canada Corp. in Yorkton, Sask.

“We are seeing an increase from our customers,” he said, as grocery stores scramble to keep dry goods on the shelves while Canadians stock their pantries.

A lot of processors and end users are ramping up production to meet extra demand. – Cal Vandaele

Cal Vandaele of Vandaele Seeds in Medora, Man. agreed that the organic sector has benefitted from strong demand.

“A lot of processors and end users are ramping up production to meet extra demand,” he said.

However, he also noted that the inherent uncertainty that came along with the pandemic has made “everything a bit of a moving target.”

Jason Breault of RW Organics in Mossbank, Sask., agreed that uncertainty has impacted organic markets.

“There’s an immediate need right now, but nothing going forward,” he remarked.

Due to large oat crops harvested in fall 2019, many grain milling companies haven’t made bids yet in 2020.

“[Increased demand] hasn’t affected prices yet, because we had such a good long position as far as grain purchased,” said Shiels.

Organic oat prices were between C$5 and C$7 per bushel, and organic flax was between C$30 and C$35.

“What it might change is the timing of when we get back into the market,” Shiels mentioned.

“We were thinking after seeding we’d be back with a bid, but I think we’ll be back before seeding now, just because of the rush.”

Organic pulses have also been well-supported by the rush of Canadians filling their pantries with canned essentials.

“We produce a lot of staples, especially for the growing amount of people on a plant-based diet,” said Jason Freeman of Farmer Direct Organic in Regina.

“Our supply chain is probably playing catch-up to meet that demand. As long as people are self-isolating and not going to restaurants, demand for those staples will be increasing.”

We have the infrastructure to benefit from this. – Jason Freeman

Organic black beans are around 78 cents per pound, and pinto beans are around 73 cents per pound.

Freeman said that demand for organic pulses had been steadily rising before the COVID-19 outbreak, but supply chains are ready to meet that need.

“We have the infrastructure to benefit from this,” he said.

“Farmers have the opportunity to empty their bins right now.”

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