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Organic cereals demand down

Demand for wheat tends to hold steady even in tough economic times, but not so for what’s organically grown.

Demand for organic wheat, durum and barley has flattened since the economic downturn began, Canadian Wheat Board organic marketing manager Patty Rosher told a seminar in Manitoba last month.

“Recession is generally good for wheat sales… organic wheat sales, not so much,” she said.

What’s happening lately is in sharp contrast to just a few months ago, when prices rose dramatically and a big price bubble was developing in North America.

In spring 2007, farmers were forward contracting at $11-$12 a bushel (FOB farm) for organic wheat; by fall, prices were up to $18 and rising, reaching as high as $30 a bushel with rumours of $32 and $33, Rosher said.

“It was quite a significant price spike.”

But for 2008-09, prices are nowhere near those highs, back down at around $13 to $14 per bushel. “And that’s if anybody’s is actually buying,” added Rosher. “There really isn’t a lot of movement right now.”

She said in late February she was even skeptical the CWB will put a spring contract out this year because of slow demand. However, she said, “definitely we’ll be in the market.”

The CWB is a small player in organic grains, selling only about three to four per cent of some 110,000 tonnes now produced in Canada.

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