It was interesting to listen to a brief presentation made recently by Johannes Vervloed, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
To have someone of Vervloed's stature speaking locally (in Yorkton) was interesting in itself, but the reason for his visit was of greater interest.
While in Saskatchewan, prior to speaking in Yorkton, Vervloed toured several companies including Milligan Biotech in Foam Lake, and LDM Foods and Grain Millers at Yorkton. It was not coincidence that Vervloed focused quite a bit of his time looking at canola processing here.
Vervloed said he believed there are chances for co-operation, adding they have actively worked on "an inventory of these opportunities." Clearly one of those opportunities revolved around canola.
The visit was to begin to confirm those opportunities, he said, adding "the proof of the pudding is always in eating it."
In the case of canola, Vervloed explained how the European Union has initiated a phase-in to 2020 of a 10 per cent use of biofuel in diesel, a mandate that could be met by the use of canola oil.
The idea of canola oil flowing into biodiesel production is hardly revolutionary. It has been one of the driving forces behind higher prices, increased processing, and expanding acres in recent years.
While biodiesel has spurred expansion for canola, there has been less actual production than one might have anticipated.
The situation is one where the idea of biodiesel has grown more quickly than implementation of production.
The reasons for both are pretty straightforward.
In terms of interest in biodiesel, it fits with an increased public interest in environmental sustainability.
It also fits well with political agendas that call for less reliance on imported oil stocks. The idea of growing oil looks good against the threat of disrupted imported sources.
The production of biodiesel has lagged because as canola prices have climbed, the ability to make a dollar at the production level has been impacted.
Ultimately to make sense, biodiesel production must be competitive with traditional oil sources. At present that is not the case.
Mandated requirements will help push production, but one might argue it is an artificial market which runs counter to the true philosophy of sustainability.
As the biodiesel sector does develop moving forward, canola should benefit. And connections like those starting to be made between the Saskatchewan canola growing region and the Netherlands are the signs of that.