Horizons #60: Put oats on boats – a healthy world needs them

27 October, 2021

by Professor Ross Kingwell, AEGIC Chief Economist

Diseases of affluence are providing a market opportunity for oats.

There is an adage that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It could be just as true to say that “a daily handful of oats keeps the doctor away” because oats bestow an impressive array of health benefits.

Oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing (Figure 1) so most oat-based food products contain whole grain oats. Oats are naturally rich in beta-glucan – a soluble fibre mostly found in the sub-aleurone layer adjacent to the endosperm (Figure 1). Beta-glucan improves blood glucose control, improves insulin responses and helps decrease cholesterol levels. More recent research indicates oats contain avenanthramides – a unique phytochemical that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL-cholesterol. Other health advantages of oats are listed here (Oats | Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (glnc.org.au)).
The favourable nutritional credentials of oats, when combined with the emerging problems of obesity (Table 1), diabetes and heart health in many advanced and developing economies (Figure 2) point to growth in demand for oats. Natural and healthy food products like oats will increasingly feature in people’s diets as they grow richer and older, with health concerns increasing in prominence and driving food choices.
Annual global oat production is only around 23mmt, a small crop compared to major cereal crops such as wheat of which 775mmt is produced each year. The volume of oats traded globally annually is only around 2.5mmt with Canada, Australia and the EU being the main exporters. The world’s largest export trade is Canadian oats flowing into the USA. Because there are few suppliers of export oats for food, any marked changes to oat supply can greatly affect global oat markets and cause price volatility that reduces the commercial attractiveness of growing oats.

Table 1: Various countries’ obesity rankings 

Percentage of deaths by dietary risk factor: world

Figure 2: Number of deaths by dietary risks factor (global) (2017) Source (IHME, 2021) 

To keep oat growing commercially attractive to Australian producers, AEGIC is developing innovative food products in the hope of broadening oat use in Asia such that oats eventually become incorporated in lunch and dinner meals in various ways. AEGIC sees great value in moving oats beyond breakfast.

InterGrain has embarked on an $11.5 million commercial oat breeding venture to provide new varieties for milling and hay oats, whilst broadening the genetic base of oats to facilitate response to future environmental and market needs.

AEGIC recently released new analysis of the Australian oats industry. Opportunities and risks for the Australian oats industry provides up-to-date oat market insights and provides key recommendations for the industry to help maintain markets and capture future opportunities.

Download the report here.


Image: AEGIC oat noodles

HORIZONS: the AEGIC Economics and Market Insights blog

Expert grains industry analysis and commentary from AEGIC’s Economics and Market Insight Team on a range of big-picture topics that affect Australia’s export grains sector.

Read the back catalogue

More News