Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan

Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan

The Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan was established in 2006 following meetings and consultations that showed majority support for a producer levy on canaryseed sales.

The levy is a flat $1.75 per tonne. The levy is mandatory, but refundable. Buyers are required to deduct the levy when producers sell their crop. However, every year, producers can apply to the commission for a refund. Contact the CDCS office for further details.

Producers who have sold canaryseed in the last three years and who have not requested a refund are eligible to vote at the annual meeting and to run for the position of director.

Governed by canaryseed producers, the CDCS has one primary focus – getting approval for canaryseed as a human food. Money from the producer levy has been used to lever a $747,000 commitment from the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) program to pursue new uses.

A big part of the investment involves the necessary safety studies to thoroughly understand the composition of canaryseed and make sure it’s suitable for human and livestock consumption. Another component is marketing where we’re working to understand the needs of the food industry and how canaryseed might best be utilized.

Can it be a sesame seed replacement? Does flour made from canaryseed have special attributes? What about the Hispanic health food market where canaryseed is already being consumed in limited quantities?

Dr. Carol Ann Patterson of The Pathfinders Research and Management Ltd. in Saskatoon is on contract with CDCS to lead the New Uses Project. By March of 2011 as the safety, nutritional and marketing studies near a conclusion, our direction and potential opportunities should be clearer.

CDCS also provides in excess of $80,000 a year for the canaryseed breeding work carried out by Dr. Pierre Hucl of the University’s Crop Development Centre. Pierre has developed glabrous (hairless) varieties such as CDC Maria, CDC Togo and CDC Bastia. He is working to improve the yield of glabrous varieties and he’s working on yellow-seeded varieties.

Current varieties have a dark grey coloured seed when the hull is removed. The New Uses Project is concentrating on product with a yellow seed, since it is likely to have better acceptance for many human food applications. As you can see, the breeding investment is linked to the hope for human food usage.

To date, canaryseed has been almost totally reliant on the birdseed market and that carries a number of risks. The market is finite and when Saskatchewan grows too much relative to demand, prices are pushed lower. In order for canaryseed to be profitable over a larger land base, we need to move beyond the birdseed market.  

At this point, it’s impossible to know for sure whether canaryseed can find a significant place in the human food sector, but the work to date looks promising. Stay tuned.