Lentil drives economy

By Geoff Lee

February 11, 2016 8:39 AM

Who knew the lowly lentil could help drive Saskatchewan’s agriculture export economy this year as it did in 2015?
The answer is Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart, who knows it is a top export crop in terms of dollar value.
Lentil exports helped the province set a record in 2015 with total agri-food export sales of $15.1 billion to lead the nation.
Alberta has yet to release its 2015 export sales, but in 2014, they totalled $9.7 billion.
Saskatchewan’s export sales in 2015 increased eight per cent from 2014, led by lentils.
Stewart said lentil exports are likely to continue to be strong in 2016.
“I suspect acres will be up for 2016 — because of demand for the 2015 crop — we are pretty well cleaned out of lentils in the province at very strong prices,” said Stewart.
Lentils led the list of top five export products in 2015, followed by canola seeds, non durum wheat, durum wheat and canola oil.
Lentils are part of group of grown products called pulse crops that are harvested solely for their dry seeds.
“Our major market for pulse crops is India, but some lentils that go to India are transshipped to other areas,” said Stewart.
Stewart sees lots of growth potential for pulse crops to India with their rapidly growing population and prosperity.
“Their economic growth is pretty outstanding and outpacing China now,” he said.
Saskatchewan had sales of at least $200 million to 15 different countries led by the United States, China and India.
The province’s exports met the demand of 145 countries for Saskatchewan’s agri-foods.
Increases in crop and livestock production and a growing value-added sector have contributed to the record growth of exports in the province.
Stewart said he is hopeful 2016 will be another strong year for agriculture in the province.
“We can’t predict the weather, but we can predict a few things,” he said.
“We have the programs in place that support our farmers taking a gamble and spending some money on growing a big crop.”
Stewart also noted farmers and ranchers are supported with research dollars every year.
“We try to be facilitators for the best agriculture producers in the world I think,” he said.
Stewart attributed much of Saskatchewan’s ag export success to policies and programs focused on market development and trade advocacy.
He said this ensures Saskatchewan products move freely to new and existing markets like the European Union, China, India and Korea.
The new Trans Pacific Partnership will also drive the demand for exports to 800 million consumers in Pacific Rim trading countries.
“It’s a huge market for us already even with tariffs in place, and with the elimination and reduction of tariffs and some other barriers to trade, it’s huge for Saskatchewan,” said Stewart.
As for the impact of our low Canadian dollar, Stewart said that makes our exports a little cheaper, but that comes with a downside.
“When the Canadian dollar is in this state, it’s more expensive to do business — to produce commodities, but the price of commodities is adjusted upwards because of that,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a saw-off, but it certainly makes the commodities more valuable.”
With the cost of produce rising almost weekly for consumers, Stewart was asked if the province is exporting too much food and agri-products at the expense of Canadians.
“I think the Canadian market is about two per cent of what we produce in this province,” he said.
“All these retail markets pay top dollar for commodities so they always get what they need out of Saskatchewan production first.”
Stewart said agriculture is the strongest economic driver in his province, helping to offset the impact of low oil and gas prices and a slowdown in mining as well.
“The oil industry has fallen on hard times,” said Stewart.
“This is temporary — I am confident for that, but just the same it’s really tough for that industry and it hurts our economy to some extent.”
He said potash and uranium mining are also in slump making agriculture “the star performer” in the economy these days.
“We’d like to see the other commodities come back a bit, but we’re proud of agriculture for the job it’s doing,” he said.

More News

LCSD hosts archbishop

The Lloydminster Catholic School Division (LCSD) had a special guest this week, as Archbishop Richard Smith toured multiple schools. more »

Falk talks first session in House of Commons

Battlefords-Lloydminster member of Parliament Rosemarie Falk is back in her constituency for the summer. She held a summer office open house this week for people to have a tour, drop by for a conversation,… more »

Health council opens channels

We have your back on healthcare. That’s what the Yellowhead East Health Advisory Council (HAC) told local and area residents during its latest meeting at the Lloydminster Hospital on June 20. more »

more »