What will the identity preserved (IP) soybean market look like in 10 years?
Sevita International’s new CEO Don Rees believes the market will double over the next decade and he feels that’s a conservative estimate. Grabbing a larger piece of that growing IP pie will be one of Rees’ goals as he takes the reins at Sevita, which operates processing facilities in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. The company sells both soybean and corn seed through the Pro Seeds and Legend brands.
Rees joins the company with an impressive agri-food resume that includes executive roles at Organic Meadow, Sun Opta, Maple Leaf Foods and others. “I actually think we’re at the tip of the iceberg,” says Rees as he assesses the IP market. “When you look at what’s happening in Europe and the consumer pushback on genetically modified materials… I don’t see any slowdown in the consumer requirement for non-genetically modified materials in the food grade area.”
From a global perspective, Rees says there’s growing demand coming from traditional markets such as Europe, the US and Japan. “We’re also seeing increasing demand from places like Taiwan and Singapore, and China is looking for better quality products from North America to help them supply better non-GMO soybean products.” Traditional markets such as soy beverages, miso and tofu all continue to grow, notes Rees.
What does growing IP demand mean for Sevita’s soybean business in Canada? The company recently announced the release of new varieties for its seed lineup — both conventional and GM— but there’s clearly a sharp focus on working with growers to produce non-GMO IP soybeans that can be funneled into the company’s closed loop production system.
Sevita’s sales manager Eric Bertrand believes growers will continue to see significant value when they plant IP soybeans. He says newer varieties, with yields that rival conventionals varieties as well as strong disease and agronomic packages will make IP programs even more attractive.
“We increased premiums this year, but to be competitive we have to talk about genetics as well,” says Bertrand. He believes when it comes to yield, conventional and genetically modified varieties are “pretty much even.”
One of the biggest challenges for IP growth at the grower level is weed management, says Bertrand. “It doesn’t cost more for growers to grow IP beans if they control weeds early. The challenge comes when you have to respray one, two or three times.” Bertrand admits that weed control in non-GMO soybeans can be expensive, but he believes it’s manageable. “We tell growers to start with a clean field and make sure that field stays clean. If weed control starts early, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
The Sevita business continues to focus on it Central and Eastern Canada business, but Rees admits he and his board of directors have been keeping a close eye on exploding soybean acres in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The new CEO says Sevita has no immediate plans to set down roots in the Western Canada, but the opportunity has been identified in the company’s strategic plan. “We think that’s fundamentally important because the market continues to grow and expand geographically as well.”