Flax has been grown across Canada for over 100 years.
Flax is a good source of fibre, lignans and omega-3 fatty acids, and it is high in alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid.
Most production is in Western Canada, with some production in Ontario and Quebec. The production area is about one million acres.
In Canada, most of the flax is Brown flax, and Yellow or Golden flax is also grown here. The difference is simply the colour of the seed– the colour does not affect the nutritional qualities. However, in the food market, Yellow flax is sometimes preferred.
The health benefits of flax have been researched. Flax is a good source of fibre, lignans and omega-3 fatty acids, and it is high in alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid. Health Canada has approved a health claim for consuming five tablespoons of whole ground flaxseed daily to reduce blood cholesterol. Flax consumption has also been shown to lower the risk of breast and prostate cancer, improve blood sugar control, and improve digestive health.
The largest use for flax remains the industrial market. The seed is crushed for the oil, which is then used in the production of linoleum flooring, as well as industrial coatings, such as paint. Flax meal is used to feed livestock, including dairy cattle and chickens. Laying hens that are fed flax meal produce omega-3 enriched eggs. The industrial market for flax is stable for volume, with potential growth in the petfood and livestock market.
The food market is a potential area for growth, as consumers become more aware of the health benefits of consuming flax.
The biggest markets for Canadian flax are China, the United States, and Europe. There are several smaller markets, including Japan, South Korea and Mexico.
The flax research activities in the Diverse Field Crop Cluster are focused on developing new varieties, identifying genetic markers for more efficient germplasm selection, and searching for germplasm that can be used to develop flax varieties with a reduced amount of cadmium in the seed.