Record world oilseed crop: canola growers pay heed: Reports by Denys Slee and Alex Nicol

Canola prices have taken a dive with increasing world production of canola and the generally healthy state of global oilseed production. Analysts speaking both here and overseas see a continued rise in production but possible price recoveries because of greater demand from some parts of the world, particularly Asia.

Meanwhile research is opening exciting new areas of custom-designed and value-added oilseeds.

More Crystal Ball Gazing

In Australia for the recent International Rapeseed Congress, Thomas Mielke of the Hamburg-based Oil World publications said world canola production jumped from about 30 million tonnes five years ago, to more than 40 million tonnes in 1999.

He said the result was likely to be an increase in unsold stocks of canola in 1999-2000 and, probably for the first time, Australia would have sizeable stocks well into the year 2000. Recent ABARE predictions forecast an additional record crop of 2.4 million tonnes, 34 per cent above last year's record crop.

Over the medium term, Mr Mielke predicted prices could firm as growth in palm oil production in Indonesia and Asia slows down; Asian economies were recovering and India's oilseed production in 1999-2000 could be the lowest in six years. (See next item for an update on world oilseed stocks, which appear to be healthier than expected.)

The International Rapeseed Congress was supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC.

While the North Americans say...

Across the Pacific, Canadian grain analysts say Canadian production is likely to come in at a relatively modest (for Canada) 7.7 million tonnes.

Estimating world production of canola and rapeseed at 39.2 million tonnes, they expect the season to finish with the biggest-ever carryover of close to 4 million tonnes.

Canola not in isolation

Canola's fortunes are tied to the larger world oilseed market and, in January this year, the United States Department of Agriculture predicted a record 323.4 million tonne world oilseed crop, due largely to big soybean crops in South America.

Fears that hot, dry weather would have a serious impact on the South American crop have not been realised. The world oilseed crop has risen by 19.5 million tonnes in the last two years. Total world oilseed carryover stocks are now estimated at 26.8 million tonnes (an inrease of 2 million tonnes since 1997-98).

Canola: spreads from margarine to motoring

Oil from oilseeds in engines, for facial cosmetics and in detergents — these are some of the emerging end-product uses for oilseeds highlighted at a recent international conference in Canberra.

Delegates to the International Rapeseed Congress were told of trials in Ireland where canola is being tested as a diesel fuel extender at inclusion rates of up to 25 per cent.

The trials follow a European Union policy decision to obtain 5 per cent of motor fuel requirements from renewable sources by the year 2005. To date, the Irish trials are showing that canola oil is more likely to suit heavy-duty engines, which mirrors research in the US where low erucic acid rapeseed oils are also being used to power larger automotive engines.

From France came the view that contemporary interest in plant oils also extends to products such as detergents and cosmetics.

"For this reason it is important to design the composition of seed oils according to the demand of industries," a French report to the conference said. "One approach is to modify the composition of the seed by genetic engineering."

(See also prognosis for future specialty canola products in our special feature, showcasing biotechnology advances and gene technology p19-20 — Ed.)

Mustard: the new canola?

Victorian oilseed breeder Wayne Burton forecast that Brassica juncea (mustard) would make an impact in the drier parts of the southern grain belt. He said lines were being developed with oil qualities the same as those of Brassica napus (canola).

"We will have both Brassica napus and Brassica juncea quality canola oil," he said. "Brassica juncea lines are more drought- and heat-tolerant than Brassica napus."

Mr Burton said lines might be ready for commercial release in three years — perhaps longer — depending on registration and regulatory procedures.

Canada is also moving to the production of Brassica juncea oilseed. Canadian oilseed breeder Derek Potts said canola quality (oil and meal) juncea varieties have been developed in that country which meet the requirements of the canola industry.

This has been achieved by lowering glucosinolate and erucic acid levels and increasing oleic acid levels to make Brassica juncea seed interchangeable with Brassica napus seed for the purposes of the food and feed industries.

Program 2.5.2 Contact: Mr Wayne Burton 03 5362 2111