Mission to Japan and Korea piques interest in Canadian feed grains

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Canada's barley promotion mission visiting Tokyo.

Japan and Korea may open up their markets to a wider range of Canadian feed grains if the success of a recent barley promotion mission is any indication, according to Dr. Rex Newkirk, Cigi’s Vice-President of Research and Innovation, who participated in the visit to those countries.

The Canadian delegation, which presented feed seminars and met with feed companies and farmers, also included market development officials from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and the Alberta Barley Commission, a feed scientist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and several feed industry representatives. Cigi co-sponsored the mission with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, which co-ordinated the trip, and ABC.

“This was primarily a barley feed mission but my interest was also in feed wheat and canola as Cigi represents a broader range of grains,” Rex says. “So we met with key companies to find out what they  are using and if they could use more and also with farmers to find out what their impressions are of these grains.”

Rex says that Korea and Japan are large importers of feed grains but primarily use corn and soybean meal. Feed barley, feed wheat and canola meal are used to a lesser extent, with barley more as a finishing ration. Korean and Japanese farms generally are small but intensive, efficient operations. “Corn is used as a top feed ingredient worldwide, including in Korea and Japan which import primarily from the U.S., but when prices are high as they have been recently, other feed grains are a viable option. So we were promoting Canadian feed grains such as barley and wheat as less expensive alternatives.

“Cigi was asked to get involved in the mission because of our experience in those markets,” he says. “I went as the expert on chickens and pigs and Dr. Tim McAllister (AAFC) went as the expert on ruminants. So together we were able to address issues related to processing barley as a feed ingredient.”

Rex says the two countries have some concerns that the meetings helped alleviate. Canola meal, for example, is commonly confused with rapeseed. The customers pointed out that in their experience glucosinolates give canola a bitter taste that make animals back off the feed. However, glucosinolates are in rapeseed, not canola. “So we were able to make the case that they can use canola meal much more extensively. We also discussed issues around barley which they process like corn but barley doesn’t need nearly as much processing, so there’s actually less cost to it. That was part of their questioning, about how much barley they can use, as they traditionally use corn but corn’s expensive. And we were saying barley can completely replace corn.”

Japan, for example, produced nearly 25 million tonnes of feed, mostly from imported grains, in 2011. Of that amount, 45% was from corn; 14%, soybean meal;  4%, feed barley; and 2%, feed wheat (of which Canada provided approximately 25% of the feed barley and 17% of the feed wheat ).

The companies came to realize that Canada is serious about promoting its feed grains, Rex says.  “With the U.S., South America and especially Australia active in these markets, it’s necessary for Canada to speak up and not take these markets for granted.  While the amount of feed barley and feed wheat they import is relatively small, I suspect we’ll have more follow-up missions in Canada to show them that they can use higher levels of barley. This is only the start as it’s about developing a consistent relationship for the long-term.

“This mission helps create market opportunities for farmers as about one-third of grains and oilseeds go to feed in Canada and there’s an opportunity to export more of it,” Rex says. “We often don’t think about that but it is an important part of the market. It all depends on price and shipping, but we have a great product and people have to know about it so that when the price is right they can act and make appropriate decisions.”

For more information contact rnewkirk@cigi.ca