Canola Oil Industry & Statistics

Canola is the world's only "Made in Canada" crop and it is often the nation's most valuable one, with annual exports of canola seed, oil and meal that are valued at over three billion dollars.

The canola industry has 60,000 farmer decision-makers and a real value-added sector that processes canola seed into canola oil and meal. With 13 processing plants in five provinces and over 2,800 people directly employed in highly skilled and professional jobs, the canola industry contributes more than $6 billion annually to the Canadian economy.

Canola is an achievement of Canada's research community and is a testament to how responding to consumer demands for quality and nutrition pays big dividends over time. With its low saturated fat level, excellent balance of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, its versatility and light taste, canola oil has found an important place in the world's kitchens, food processing companies and restaurants.

Do You Know?

Canola Oil is An Award Winner. Canola oil has received two awards in the United States. "Product Acceptance Award" - American College of Nutrition "Health Product of the Year Award" - American Health Foundation Canola oil received Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status in the United States in 1985, which has opened the doors in the American marketplace for canola oil and canola oil products.

Canola Statistics

Canola Markets around the WorldCanola oil represents approximately 70 per cent of the vegetable oil consumed by Canadians, but only 25 per cent of the seed that is produced each year. This means nearly 75 per cent of the canola seed, oil and meal produced in Canada is exported to destinations such as the United States, Japan, Mexico, and China.

  • The most important export market for canola oil and meal is the United States, while the most important raw seed export destinations are Japan and Mexico.
  • Canola oil's market share has grown in the U.S., from zero to between seven and eight per cent over the past 10 years.
  • The United States is a regular market for more than 60 per cent of the canola meal produced in Canada.
  • In Japan, more than 50 per cent of the vegetable oil consumed is produced from canola seed.
  • Mexico is also a steady and growing customer, which depends on canola to meet 25 per cent of its consumers needs. Meanwhile, consumption of canola meal in Mexico has increased from five per cent just five years ago to over 10 per cent today. During this growth in market penetration, canola meal has displaced corn gluten, fishmeal and soybean meal.
  • China is an intermittent customer, but, with its growth, has become an important focus of the industry's market development work.
Total utilization of canola seed has reached a level where a minimum 7.0 million tonnes are required annually. To meet this demand, the Canola Council has set four targets by 2007:
  • Seven million tonnes sustained annual production.
  • Two to three additional dedicated canola customers (i.e.; China, Pakistan and Iran).
  • Doubling of U.S. consumption.
  • One new domestic industrial market application.
It's clear that North America and Asia set the demand trend for Canadian canola, but demand is growing as consumers everywhere are looking for the health properties of canola oil - lowest in saturated fats, great ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s and high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Turning Rapeseed into Canola

The canola we know today was developed in the early 1970s using traditional plant breeding techniques; as a result of Canadian plant breeders' efforts to remove the anti-nutritional components, erucic acid and glucosinolates from rapeseed so that it would be absolutely safe for human and animal consumption. The plant also produced seeds with a very low level of saturated fat, seven per cent or below.

This new oilseed was christened "Canola" and there is a strict internationally regulated definition of canola that differentiates it from rapeseed, based upon it having less than two per cent erucic acid and less than 30 umoles glucosinolates. Therefore, oilseed products that do not meet this standard cannot use the trademarked term, canola. High erucic acid rapeseed acreage, although still present in Canada, is now confined to production under contract for specific industrial uses.

Today, Canada is the global centre for spring canola research. Many improvements in yield, plant disease resistance and quality continue to be made by private seed developers, the federal government and universities.

Canola Oil and the Products You Use

Canadian canola oil must meet strict quality standards determined by government health agencies before being used as or in a food product. Therefore, consumers can associate quality with canola and rely on continued excellence in their canola oil.

The Canola Processing Industry

As can be seen from the chart above, canola seeds are crushed into two component parts: oil and meal. The oil and meal are then further manufactured into a wide variety of products. The Canadian oilseed processing industry, which is sometimes called the crushing industry, currently consists of 13 crushing and refining/packaging plants, owned by five companies.

Annual primary crushing capacity for all plants totals about 4.0 million tonnes of canola seed. Four million tonnes of canola seed produces approximately 1.6 million tonnes of canola oil and 2.4 million tonnes of canola meal.

Further manufacturing, called refining, improves the colour, flavour and shelf life of canola oil. Total refining capacity of canola oil in Canada is over one million tonnes annually and essentially parallels our crude oil production. It is spread across the country in close proximity to both canola oil production and the Canadian population. Virtually all the seed processors are now integrated into oil refining as well.

The Canola Oil Extraction

Step 1: The first stage in processing canola is to roll or flake the seed. This ruptures cells and makes the oil easier to extract.

Step 2: Next the flaked or rolled seeds are cooked and subjected to a mild pressing process which removes some of the oil and compresses the seeds into large chunks called "cake fragments".

Step 3: The cake fragments undergo further processing to remove most of the remaining oil. The oil extracted during each step is combined. The oil is then subjected to processing according to the end product requirements. Different treatments are used to process salad oils, margarines, and shortenings.

Canola Meal

Although canola seeds are crushed for their oil, the solids (called meal) are also important. Canola meal is used in beef and dairy cattle, swine, poultry, and specialty (horse, sheep and aquaculture) feeds. Based on nutrient content alone, canola meal is worth, on a unit weight basis, 65 to 70 per cent of the value of 44 per cent protein soybean meal for feeding poultry and about 70 to 75 per cent of the value of soybean meal for feeding swine and ruminants.


Biotechnology is creating a new era in agriculture. Food biotechnology holds significant promise to consumers. Benefits now and in the future include foods with enhanced nutritional qualities, improved methods of monitoring food safety, and extended shelf life.

Continued Innovation in Canola

Canada's canola industry continues to innovate. It is estimated that within 10 years, one half of canola acres will be devoted to the production of special kinds of canola that have been developed to meet specific market needs. Traditional canola will occupy the other half of the acres.

A new type of canola with a modified fatty acid profile to make high oleic and low linolenic oil was introduced about five years ago. This specialty canola provides high stability oil for frying and does not require hydrogenation. This means that food companies can reduce the amount of trans fat in the food they produce and make it a healthier option for today's consumers.

We can also expect to see other specialty canola products such as ultra-low saturated fat and omega-3 enhanced canola.

Innovation in canola, through the introduction of herbicide tolerance, has also allowed us to reduce farmers' costs and the use of natural resources in its production.

In Canada at present, we have three main groups of herbicide-resistant canola: Roundup Ready and Liberty Link varieties that were produced using genetic modification, and Clearfield varieties that were developed using a traditional plant breeding technique called mutagenesis.

GM or transgenic canola burst on the scene in 1995 and the acreage rose rapidly. In 2004, transgenic Roundup Ready and Liberty Link varieties were grown on 75 per cent of the acres, while Clearfield varieties were on 18 per cent and conventional on seven per cent of the acres.

It is important to note that the transgenic gene inserted into the canola plant to produce Roundup Ready and Liberty Link InVigor herbicide resistance is a protein. All protein is removed from canola oil during processing. Therefore, canola oil contains no GM material and is identical to canola oil from a non-GM canola plant.

A recent study on the agronomic and economic impact of transgenic canola varieties shows benefits to the grower, the industry and the environment. Growers chose transgenic varieties for better weed control, better returns and more profit.

On average, transgenic systems resulted in a 10 per cent yield increase and less dockage. Growers reported an average increase in net return of $5.80/acre. Transgenic canola growers reduced the number of tillage operations compared to conventional variety growers. An additional 2.6 million acres of canola had fewer tillage passes. Transgenic canola growers also use less summerfallow.

Transgenic canola growers used less fuel because of fewer field operations, including tillage, harrowing, fertilizing and less summerfallow. Fuel saved by transgenic canola growers totalled 3.12 million litres in 2000, a savings of over $13 million.

Transgenic growers also used less herbicide than conventional growers. Total herbicide use was cut by 6,000 tonnes of total product in 2000.

A very exciting new innovation for the canola industry has been the development of hybrid canola varieties. Hybrids, which can provide growers with significant yield increases, is also increasing in acreage. New Roundup Ready, InVigor and Clearfield hybrids have been introduced and hybrids are expected to take half the acres in 2005.

Whether the improvement is in the agronomic performance of the plant or the nutritional property of canola oil, canola's future depends on innovation through research and development.

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