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Oilseed Processing Industry

The story of oilseed processing in Saskatchewan is primarily that of rapeseed and its successor, canola. Recent years have seen close to a million tonnes of Saskatchewan canola processed annually through oilseed extraction plants in Saskatchewan and its bordering provinces. This is equivalent to nearly two million acres of canola, making it by far the most important oilseed being produced and processed in the province. Flax, high erucic acid rapeseed (HEAR), and borage are others of importance. J. Gordon Ross operated the province's first oilseed crushing/extraction plant in Moose Jaw from 1945. He processed rapeseed, used initially as a lubricant in military ships, and was later instrumental in developing other markets for both the seed and the oil. Another extraction plant was constructed by Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (SWP) in conjunction with a flour mill in Saskatoon. It was built to extract linseed oil from flax, and began operations in 1946. In 1949 it also began processing rapeseed. Following World War II the Moose Jaw plant ceased operations, and the SWP plant went through difficult times until rapeseed oil started being accepted for food uses. In 1963 another extraction plant, built by Agra Industries, began operation in Nipawin. While the Saskatoon plant used only hexane extraction to remove oil (as is done with soybeans), the Nipawin plant followed the more common practice, for high oil content seeds, of including an expeller pressing step. This involves the removal of about two-thirds of the oil by mechanically squeezing it from the seed prior to the hexane extraction step.

The conversion of the rapeseed crop to the more nutritionally desirable canola (1974-78) did much to ensure the future of the oilseed growing and processing industries in Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada. Canola-processing plants were constructed near the Saskatchewan border in Lloydminster, Alberta (1975) and in Harrowby, Manitoba (1982); both of these plants draw more than half of their canola seed from Saskatchewan farms. Another Saskatchewan canola crushing plant, built by Cargill near Clavet, started operations in 1996. It is one of the largest canola crushing plants in North America. The SWP plant in Saskatoon became part of CSP Foods in 1975 but was closed in 1983. The other plants continue to crush primarily canola, but also some flax, HEAR, and high-stability canola. The Nipawin plant added a refinery and packaging plant in the ten years after it began crushing operations; this allowed it to produce bottled vegetable oils as well as margarines and shortenings for direct food use. In 1974 CSP Foods (which later became CanAmera Foods) purchased the Nipawin plant, and in 1985 the packaging operation was moved to Edmonton. In 2002 CanAmera Foods was purchased by Bunge Inc.

Two smaller specialty processors also operate in Saskatchewan. Bioriginal Food and Science Corporation, which operates out of Saskatoon, uses special extraction processes in its operation to produce oils, particularly those high in gamma-linolenic acid, for use in nutritional supplements and for other markets. Since 1994, cold-pressed oils (canola and others) have been produced from an expeller pressing operation (without solvent extraction) by Goldburn Valley Oil Mills in Tisdale. Oilseed processing is one of the most important value-added agribusinesses in Saskatchewan, and appears to be a well-established industry.

Jim Dyck

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Further Reading

National Research Council. 1992. From Rapeseed to Canola: The Billion Dollar Success Story. Ottawa: National Research Council Publications.
This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
Ce site Web a été conçu grâce à l'aide financière de
Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.