Bad weather results in poor wild rice harvest

By Derek Cornet
October 11, 2018 - 12:00pm

It’s wasn’t a good season for wild rice producers in northern Saskatchewan who weren’t able to harvest crops due to bad weather conditions.

“The wild rice was there, but people weren’t able to harvest it because of the weather and high winds,” Northern Lights Food owner Jean Poirier said. “Too many days were lost to the weather.”

While northern Saskatchewan and part of Manitoba is capable of producing 2.5 million pounds of wild rice in a bumper year, the average yield is about one million pounds. This year Poirier expects the harvest to be 700,000 pounds or less and he noted the quality isn’t great. The wild rice Poirier purchased from growers is currently drying at a processing plant in La Ronge and he noted he’s yet to ship orders to customers as he doesn’t know how much finished product he’ll have available.

The wild rice harvest traditionally begins mid-August and runs to the end of September. Some days in October can also sometimes be used, but Poirier said by then there’s a big risk for frost. Of the total amount harvested, he said Northern Lights Food buys about one-third of the crop and two other companies purchase the remainder.

“I don’t see any of us three who buy wild rice [falling] apart, but on the other hand, there will be sacrifices somewhere on prices,” Poirier said. “I think the qualities will be a little low and prices will be difficult.”

Poirier bought wild rice since 2012 and he said some years are much better than others. He added rice tends to follow a 10-year cycle, noting producers plan for a bumper crop for at least two of those years. Northern Lights Foods also markets wild rice around the world, which includes customers in China.


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