Oats are healthy high-protein cereals that are quick and easy to prepare, low in sodium and convenient to eat. Canada is the 2nd largest oat producer and highest exporter in the world. This is because Canadian oats serve as wonderful ingredients for breakfast cereals, baked goods, snack bars, and cookies/biscuits. The Canadian oat industry is bursting with opportunity as there remains untapped potential that could have significant benefits for populations and markets home and abroad.
The Canadian Prairies grows one of the largest supply of high quality, nutritious oats in the world! Canada produces about 73% of world’s oat grain exports. However, there remains room for growth and this is the message the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) sought to carry on their Ottawa Tour. Instead of an in-person tour in Ottawa, this year the POGA delegation did a virtual tour, meeting with MP’s, a Senator, government officials and NGO’s. Over 4 days from beginning to mid March they met with a total of 62 people. The virtual format allowed them to schedule meetings more tightly as there was no switching between buildings or driving that needed to be done. The delegation consisted of 9 POGA delegates, including Jenneth Johanson (President) and Dawn Popescul (Interim Executive Director).
Over the past five years, the engagement has grown considerably in Ottawa and with it POGA’s reputation as a highly efficient and effective association. The working relationship with AAFC continues to improve and along with the profile that with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the railways, the CTA, MPs, and Senators. The goals of the tour are to raise awareness of the oat sector, to reach a cross-section of interests in Ottawa, to build relationships with government and other partners, to foster an environment in which oats receive due attention on a policy-setting front. This year, it was noted that the Canadian oat sector can be a huge ally in the policy objectives within the Food Policy for Canada. For instance, oats could be helpful in addressing the prevalence of diabetes in Northern communities from a nutritional perspective. Government and stakeholders could help maximize the industry’s contribution by:
• Supporting crop diversity adequately in Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) with investments in new research and value chain development
• Facilitating connections with communities they can help serve
• Investing in a Sustainability Case for the oats industry – data and research
• Increasing research into best management practices for sustainability
• Matching funding for domestic marketing
• Replicating the supercluster model for smaller crops
• Leading global market access initiatives for healthy crops
POGA has been working hard to increase the awareness of oats internationally with Oats Everyday in Canada, with Avena Canadiense in Mexico and with Kanadanootsumugi in Japan, and they have done so very successfully. We look forward to seeing the industry grow bigger and to seeing more people worldwide benefit from the advantages of oats.