Increased Chinese interest in flax is creating new opportunities for growers on the west side of the Prairies. A small flax processor in Alberta recently offered fairly attractive new crop contracts for movement to China, said Jonathon Driedger, an analyst with FarmLink Marketing Solutions.
“In the past, you’d see those kinds of contracts pop up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and some of your traditional users of flax, but not necessarily in Alberta,” he said.
Traditionally, most flax has been shipped through Thunder Bay en route to Europe or the U.S., but Chinese demand opens doors for growers in Alberta, who enjoy a freight advantage on crops moving through the West Coast.
But any change won’t happen overnight, said Driedger.
“I don’t think I’d ever suggest we’re going to see a whole whack of flax acres in Alberta or that it will become the dominant province or anything like that,” he said.
China has “become an increasingly important player” but new Alberta acres won’t come at the expense of farmers farther east, he said.
“A lot of our flax still goes to the U.S., and Manitoba and Saskatchewan would still have a competitive advantage from a freight perspective to feed the U.S. market. And, as we’ve seen this year, there will still be windows when flax moves to Europe.”
Eastern Prairie producers also have the advantage of local processing plants, Driedger noted.
Saskatchewan grew the lion’s share of flax production last year with 775,000 acres. Manitoba farmers seeded 155,000 acres and another 50,000 acres were grown in Alberta.