Demand from Asian markets has government looking to increase soybean production

The federal government has announced $3.7 million for research into oilseed production, with the goal of increasing crops like soybeans in Eastern Canada for export to Asian markets.

$3.7 million is being spent to research oilseed production

The federal government is looking to increase Canadian oilseed sales to Asia but says research needs to be done to figure out how to grow more crops first. (Dan Gill/Associated Press)

The federal government has announced $3.7 million for research into oilseed production, with the goal of increasing crops like soybeans in Eastern Canada for export to Asian markets.

The money will be going to the Eastern Canada Oilseeds Development Alliance (ECODA) which will be looking into developing new or improved varieties of soybeans, camelina, brown mustard, pulses, canola and hemp in Atlantic Canada.

It will also be researching the type of soil that these crops grow best in. There's going to be 21 research projects over the next five years. On P.E.I., $733,000 of the federal money will be used on 10 projects, including at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre in Harrington, about 15 kilometres north of Charlottetown.

Growing demand from Asia

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said it's an opportunity for Island farmers to expand their business while satisfying the demand of Asian markets.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, left, and Atlantic Soy manager Murray MacDonald pose for a photo. MacDonald says new varieties of oilseeds could mean having to develop or invest in new processing equipment. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Soybean sales from Eastern Canada to Asia, including Ontario and Quebec, totalled $2.3 billion last year with Japan and China some of the biggest customers.

MacAulay said government's goal is to grow sales to $75 billion over the next seven years.

"The Chinese minister of agriculture made of a point of telling me he wants more soy," said MacAulay, who was recently in China for a trade mission.

Island soybean production is growing

Murray MacDonald manages Atlantic Soy, a soybean facility in Belle River, about seven kilometres west of Wood Islands. He said this investment could mean big changes to the way he does business.

"As seasonal varieties come and if it needs to be shipped to different markets, we may need different equipment to satisfy what we need to do with it," MacDonald said. 

The minister said farmers on P.E.I. are producing three-times more soybeans than 10 years ago.

In 2017, the value of P.E.I.'s soybean crop was more than $18 million.

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