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The plant milk craze is leading to a glut of oats

Oat milk
Oats are the basis of vegan milks from the Swedish brand Oatly.
(Oatly)

The oat bubble is probably set to pop.

The newfound popularity of oat milk, sold everywhere from Starbucks cafes to Amazon.com, has turned the cereal plant into a hot commodity, and profits are soaring for growers. Now farmers are undertaking a planting bonanza that will boost oat acreage to the most in more than a decade.

While consumption is robust, that expansion in planting will probably outstrip annual growth in export and milling demand. The pending glut could cause prices to collapse, said Randy Strychar, president at Vancouver-based Oatinformation.com.

“You’re going to drive prices down,” Strychar said. “Once the seed gets in the ground, I’d say April, May, you’ll begin to see some declines.”

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That means cheaper oat milk and oatmeal could be on the horizon. Oat futures for May delivery in Chicago have risen 16% from a low last year. Growers in Canada, the top exporter, will boost acreage by 9% to the most since 2009, according to a February report from the nation’s agriculture ministry.

“The net profit is a lot easier to pencil on oats than it is for anything else,” said Henning Wubbe, a farmer in La Riviere in the Canadian province of Manitoba who is doubling oat acreage on his farm to 650 acres. A U.S. buyer has already agreed to purchase 80% of that future harvest.

A fervor for oat milk at independent coffee shops in the U.S. has led to supply shortages in recent years, and beverage companies have raced to launch their own brands, with even traditional milk companies joining the fray.

Oat-based ice creams and yogurts have followed. The alt-milk won over consumers with its creamy texture that imitates real milk better than its nut- and soy-based competitors. Baristas have praised it as a tool for great latte art. Besides dairy alternatives, demand is also coming from farmers adding it to animal feed.


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