Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Growing Actions Program
Improving Production for New and Growing Markets
Flax is an important crop for Manitoba. It has high value as a rotation crop providing a break for disease, insect and weed populations. It is a lower input cost crop and is a competitive alternative oilseed crop on a net return basis. Manitoba is home to many small to medium sized food ingredient processing companies and an emerging bio-fibre and bio-industrial sector that relies on a consistent supply of product for their businesses.
Canadian (and Manitoba) flax production and the market have changed significantly since the discovery of seed from the genetically modified flax variety Triffid in the EU in 2009. Imports of Canadian flax into the EU market have been drastically reduced. In addition, flax has not kept pace with yield improvements of most major crops in western Canada. Commercial flax yields have only increased 0.5% per year for the last 30 years.
To address reductions in yield and lost acreage, as well as the loss of the EU as a major export market for Canadian flax, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) under its Growing Actions program has approved funding for the FCC to focus activities on two important goals with outcomes as follows:
- Flax Production: Improving Production for the Market – It is critical to identify the factors that have caused Manitoba producers to dramatically reduce their flax production, identify current production tools available that can lead to a resurgence of flax acreage, communicate those best management practices (BMP’s) to new and existing growers, and identify and fill the gaps that exist in current agronomic research. The activities approved will identify best management practices that are critical to improve the yield and yield stability of flax in Manitoba (farmer survey), demonstrate these BMP’s to farmers (field demo program) and communicate and report to growers on these BMP’s as a process of continuous improvement.
- Flax Market: Support Current Markets and Develop (and grow) New Markets- In order for Canada’s flax market to return to levels seen before Triffid was detected, Canada needs to support current domestic markets and develop (and grow) other markets such as the U.S. and China, both of which currently buy 39% of Canada’s flax supply. Two major factors lay the foundation for future growth throughout the flaxseed value chain and are opportunities that this application addresses: 1) the strong growing demand for healthy food; and 2) a new Health Canada approved claim linking flaxseed products to a reduction of blood cholesterol. The industry must be able to demonstrate that tasty food products can be developed containing the health claim amount of flaxseed which is 13 g. With the support of MAFRD, the Flax Council has commissioned the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie to create such products. An outcome of this project is to assist Manitoba suppliers in educating the larger multi-national food and ingredient companies as to the overall value proposition of flax (both health and functionality) as well as the health claim.