- Cargill is investing $350 million to construct a new canola processing facility in Regina, Saskatchewan, according to a press release. The facility, projected to have an annual production capacity of 1 million metric tons and about 50 full-time employees, is slated to open in early 2024.
The company is also making updates over the next 12 months to existing canola crush facilities in Camrose, Alberta, and Clavet, Saskatchewan, to increase volume and expand capabilities.
The news follows Cargill's announcement this past March that it would invest $475 million to expand capacity at its soy processing facilities in the United States. The company is planning the expansions as the demand for oilseeds to create food ingredients, animal feed and biofuels is booming.
Canola, also referred to as rapeseed, is emerging as an in-demand ingredient in a range of food applications, from vegetable oils to plant-based protein. There is competition not only on a global level for supply, but also in terms of end use, like animal feed and biofuels.
"There’s going to continue to be strong pull, we believe, into countries like China, from a food perspective," Jeff Vassart, president of Cargill's Canadian unit, told Reuters. "We do see increasing demand for renewable diesel too and we want to make sure that we’re positioned for it."
Other canola processors are also rushing to ramp up capacity in the face of surging demand. Canadian processor Richardson International is doubling its canola-crushing capabilities at its plant in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. According to the Canola Council of Canada, the country is the world's largest exporter of canola, with 90% of its crop consumed elsewhere. Canada is also home to 14 crushing and refining plants with the capacity to crush about 10 million tons of canola seed each year.
This push to expand processing is happening as prices for rapeseed have rushed to record highs, Reuters reported. A poor growing season in Canada and Europe, as well as a jump in demand from China has pushed stocks held by exporters down to an eight-year low, according to the International Grains Council. Supplies of soybeans, sunflower and palm oil are also constrained. In fact, the supply crunch for oilseeds is one reason that the United Nations' global food commodity price index hit a 6.5-year high, the news service noted.
Cargill is ramping up production capacity as it also explores the nutritional potential of canola oil in response to shifting consumers demands for healthier food options. In 2017, it introduced a hybrid high-oleic canola oil to commercial customers that it claimed contains 4.5% or less saturated fat, and reduced the saturated fat content in products by 35% from previous canola oil varieties.
Some also see canola's potential as an ingredient in plant-based proteins. When paired with pea protein, it provides a complete amino acid profile that is also highly digestible. As an added bonus, canola protein is highly soluble, which helps improve the mouthfeel and palatability of plant protein products. Nutrition products maker DSM is working with French agro-industrial group Avril to develop a non-GMO canola protein. This could have major appeal for food manufacturers hoping to develop plant-based protein products that also meet consumers’ growing demand for clean label. And this month, Merit Functional Foods began commercial production of canola protein at its new Winnipeg, Manitoba. facility. It produces a canola-based protein ingredient called Puratein targeting the clean-label and plant-based segments.