China’s growing demand for high-protein oilseeds has caused Canadian canola to fall behind in the Chinese market, according the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO).

Felix Mueller, COFCO’s global head of softseeds, told the Grain World Conference in November that China’s increasing consumption of high-protein foods was also driving which oilseeds it was pursuing on the open market, reported Canadian Cattlemen.

Mueller said China was expected to import between 4M and 4.4M tonnes of canola from Canada in 2017/18, which was slightly up from last year’s total of approximately 4M tonnes.

Canola had taken a back seat to soyabeans due to soya’s higher protein content and the price disadvantage canola had against soya and palm oils.

“Soyabean crush margins have been superior to canola for an extended period of time,” Mueller said.

As a result, Mueller expected canola exports from Canada to China to improve only marginally by 2020, rising from current levels to 4.5-5M tonnes while, at the same time, the US Department of Agriculture was projecting China to import 97M tonnes of soyabeans in 2017/18.

Canada was also expected to plant more canola than ever in the next year, with an estimated crop of 24M tonnes, which Mueller said was further complicating the scenario.

However, on a positive note, he said that China’s crush capacity had improved significantly in recent years, which could signify that it would be open to increased canola imports in the future.

Mueller said that for Canada’s canola exports to China to improve, the country’s producers needed to find more premium outlets for canola oil while maintaining attractive crush margins.