Production and Marketing Strategies for Alternate Crops

 

Dan McKay
Manager, McKay Seed Co., Almira, WA

  1. Introduction

    The main focus of this talk will be marketing with short descriptions of problems that could occur during production. Three crops will be discussed; safflower, yellow mustard, and canola. Each currently has been fairly successful in the Pacific Northwest with good potential for expanded acres in the future.

  2. Three alternative crops of the Pacific Northwest
    1. Safflower
      1. North American Production. Safflower has been produced in North America for two basic uses. The majority of the crop is crushed or exported from California for oil use in Japan. About 6 to 12% of the crop is used in the bird food mixes for the U.S. market.

The chart above shows the price in short tones of safflower for the US. The Montana price reflects a discount due to transportation to the coast for export values. This price has been fairly stable over the past few years relative to the California price. Bird food has been the focus of marketing for producers of safflower in the Pacific Northwest so far to date. This market has shown considerable growth through the nineties, with some marketers claiming that the bird food market uses 12% of the total amount grown. Bird food is priced generally on a 38-pound test weight with a color of bright and white. Crush requires 38-pound test weight also; color is not a factor. Oil content minimums are often required along with linoleic or oleic oil types specified. Currently the Japanese have been buying more oleic, with very little linoleic exported. The following graph shows the recent price of safflower in the bird food market.

      1. This graph is probably fairly hard to read, so I will average it out to show you yearly prices. Recently, canola prices have been fairly strong in regards to the prices the Canadian farmer has received. Let’s take a look at a shorter period: August 1 is the start of the new crop year. You can see a slight decline from 1997 to 1998. Now let’s factor in the exchange rate since 1990. The exchange rate has a tendency to flatten this graph slightly except for the dramatic drop in price from 1997 to 1998. I feel this is the greatest impact on canola production in the near future; the ability for the Canadians to support their currency rather than export their natural resources at very cheap values.
      2. Production of canola continues to change rapidly with the advent of herbicide resistant varieties soon to be available. We still struggle with the bloom of canola often occurring during our warmest time, June and July. Except for winter canola, which blooms generally in April and May, blasting of blooms during severe heat needs to be addressed. Perhaps the introduction of a canola oil type mustard plant would help this situation.
    1. Mustard
      1. Mustard holds excellent promise as an alternative crop for the Pacific Northwest. Prior to last year, it had a good record of fairing better than canola under stressful conditions. However, a warm, dry spring, coupled with a wet May and June, allowed most spring canola to outyield yellow mustard this last year. In previous years, yellow mustard generally outperformed canola in most yield trials and in growers’ fields. With a definite price advantage, mustard appears ready to replace canola in all but the highest yielding conditions. Most yellow mustard is marketed to condiment mustard manufactures in the United States. Canada overwhelms the US production with nearly 95% of all yellow production in North America. Below is a table of supple and demand for mustard from Canada.
        Canadian Mustard Seed Supply-Demand Estimates(metric tons)
        Year

        1994

        1995

        1996

        1997

        1998

        Acreage

        800000

        675000

        591000

        722000

        700000

        Yield

        880

        787

        880

        743

        908

        Production

        319500

        241100

        235900

        243300

        288300

        Carryin

        1073

        18822

        5083

        54040

        78093

        Stocks

        320573

        259922

        240983

        297340

        366393

        Disappearance

        Europe

        67463

        54943

        46794

        56400

        52700

        Americas

        64127

        68901

        62672

        60672

        66000

        Pacific Rim

        115176

        84459

        29984

        53500

        73100

        Arab/Africa

        1125

        943

        1209

        1200

        1300

        Total Export

        247891

        209246

        140659

        171772

        193100

        Seed & Waste

        38084

        29660

        30191

        31221

        36201

        Domestic

        15776

        15933

        16093

        16254

        16416

        Usage

        301751

        254839

        186943

        219247

        245717

        Carryover

        18822

        5083

        54040

        78093

        120676

        We run into a similar situation with mustard as we did in canola. The Canadians dominate both markets. Consequently, their exchange rate has a tremendous impact on the prices US producers can receive for their products. This table includes yellow, brown and oriental mustard. You will notice that the Pacific Rim fluctuates dramatically in its use of mustard. Oriental is crushed quite extensively for cooking oil, but demand is erratic. Bangladesh and India account for the lion's share of this market. Hopefully, these two countries will import amounts closer to last year’s tonnage rather than 1996’s.

      2. Price growers can receive for yellow mustard is generally at a premium over canola. The following chart has three years of prices for yellow mustard. These prices are reflective of prices growers received the past three years. There is some variance, but on the average these numbers are fairly accurate.
      3. Agronomically, mustard has tremendous growth in the spring. It tends to overwhelm most broadleaf competitors but Russian thistle and kochia can be a problem. Most growers use a preplant herbicide for these two weeds.

     

  1. SUMMARY
    1. These three crops have been well accepted in the Pacific Northwest , both by markets and agronomically. Mustard and safflower should be contracted before planting to insure access to local markets. Canola has a much broader marketing acceptance, with large tonnage going to Japan from Portland and directly into crushers in Canada. Mustard and safflower have fairly inelastic markets, with established users of many years. For the northwest producer to consistently produce these crops, he must take market share away from other areas of North America. This can only be done with quality and/or price. The grower’s best option is to work closely with his marketing partner to provide the best product he can to the marketplace, at a price that will benefit both parties.


 

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