Cold weather limits top-grade canola supplies

Top-grade canola made up just three quarters of last year’s crop in Western Canada, the lowest proportion in six years, after too much rain and cool weather kept the oilseed from fully maturing, a Canadian government report said.

Canada is the world’s top exporter of canola. In contrast to last year’s limited canola production, the top quality grade made up roughly 90 per cent of the last five harvests.

High counts of green, unripe seeds were the main reason for downgrading the 2010 crop in Western Canada, where farmers grow the vast majority of the country’s canola. 

Canola crushers typically blend and bleach seeds in the production of canola oil, which is used to make margarine and cooking oils, to remove the green color, said Dave Hickling, vice-president of utilization at the Canola Council of Canada.

But while there is less top-grade canola this year, those supplies have similar quality to last year despite worse late-season growing conditions.

“What surprised me is that there was such a crop of good quality,” said Veronique Barthet, oilseeds program manager at the Canadian Grain Commission, the federal agency responsible for certifying crops.

No. 1 canola had slightly higher oil content of 44.3 per cent than the previous year. Chlorophyll levels — a measure of the seed’s ripeness — were somewhat lower in the premium grade and it had only slightly lower protein, which is important to the quality of canola meal for livestock feed.

Quality of the crop varied widely, with the smallest proportion of top-grade canola in Alberta and the highest in Manitoba, which was least affected by excessive moisture.

Adding to the limited quality supplies, whole storage bins of canola spoiled last month when temperatures rose, according to the Canola Council. Stored canola with high moisture and green seed counts increases the likelihood of spoilage and requires farmers to to check it regularly.

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