In terms of crop development canola really is not that old.
The crop was born out of rapeseed as recently as the 1970s, and rapeseed itself was really not grown in this country until 1942.
While the base rapeseed crop is almost forgotten, canola has become perhaps the greatest success story in Canadian agriculture,
and new chapters are being written with startling regularity.
It was only a couple of weeks ago it was announced Regina would soon be home to a new state-of-the-art canola processing facility, with Cargill announcing plans to begin construction of a new $350 million project next year that will be operational by 2024.
In addition, to constructing the new facility in Regina, Cargill will also update and modernize its canola facility in Clavet over the next 12 months to increase volume and broaden capabilities at that location.
What was perhaps the most surprising aspect of the announcement for Regina was that when I was growing up in the heart of rapeseed/canola country in Tisdale some 50 short years ago, Regina was not exactly thought of as an area well-suited to producing the crop.
That the area can now support a major crush facility is really a testament to the science that has gone into the crop over the years developing varieties which have significantly expanded the area where the crop can be successfully grown.
The Cargill announcements came only a scant month after Richardson International Limited announced a significant investment in their canola crush plant in Yorkton. The expansion of the facility will see a capacity of 2.2 million metric tonnes of canola crushed annually, which made it the largest canola crusher in North America.
But, the ‘largest’ title will be a short-lived one.
Within days of the Cargill announcement Viterra said it too will build a canola crushing facility at Regina.
Construction on the new 2.5 million metric tonne – yes slightly larger than the Yorkton plant -- canola processing plant is expected to begin in early 2022 with production underway in 2024.
The dual announcement for a single community might seem strange, but in the case of canola plants it’s actually nothing new.
It was one day in September 2006, that Yorkton took its first step toward being one of the canola-crushing capitals of Canada.
That day two companies separately announced they would build canola processing facilities here.
The first announcement came from then James Richardson International Ltd., which said it would start construction in 2007 on a $100-million plant. The plant would be capable of processing 840,000 tonnes of canola per year – the facility that will now expand to nearly triple its original design.
The second announcement, which came about an hour after the first, was from Louis Dreyfus Canada Ltd., which said its $90-million canola-crushing facility would come on stream in 2008.The Louis Dreyfus plant would be able to handle 850,000 tonnes of canola a year.
It’s doubtful even the most optimistic developer of canola in the 1970s could have dreamed where the crop would take Prairie agriculture, but it is clearly an example of what processing a crop grown here can mean, and the last announcements simply build on a long history of success.