Gathering statistics | Grain commission is now reliant on operators to submit information
Statistics that monitor the movement of Canadian grain from primary elevators to ocean bound vessels are getting a major overhaul this summer.
Changes to the Canadian Grain Act have forced the Canadian Grain Commission to revamp the way grain handling statistics are collected, verified and presented, according to CGC statistician Kevin Morgan.
In the past, grain handling data was submitted by grain companies at primary elevators and verified by grain commission workers that inspected and weighed grain arriving at export terminals.
However, with the elimination of mandatory weighing and inspection services on inbound grain, the commission can no longer verify the information.
As a result, the commission’s data management system and its flagship statistical publication, Grain Statistics Weekly, underwent major changes effective Aug. 1.
“Grain Statistics Weekly, because of how we were doing our reports previously, has had to be pretty much blown up and reconceived,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the CGC’s previous data collection system was “a gold standard” that allowed the commission to verify grain handling volumes at various stages in the supply chain.
It allowed the commission to report, within days, key data such as commercial grain stocks, commercial disappearance, handlings at terminals, outgoing export shipments and deliveries to primary elevators.
The new system will depend more heavily on terminal elevator operators to voluntarily submit grain handling data at port and country locations.
Morgan said the new system will be significantly different, but will have the ability to serve the grain industry well.
In the short term, there will be growing pains, he added.
So far, there has been industry-wide co-operation in providing grain handling statistics and ensuring that the new system meets industry needs.
But implementing the new system has caused delays with no data posted to the website through most of August.
That delay was expected given the magnitude of the changes, Morgan said.
“It’s a priority to the organization to get the Grain Statistics Weekly stats out as soon as we can,” he said.
The CGC posted its first statistical package — a combination of Week 1 and Week 2 figures — at the end of August.
That package was a partial snapshot of grain movement with some data missing.
Additional data will be included in subsequent weeks as the new system evolves.
The CGC is working with industry and plans to ask for suggestions how the new data can be tweaked and reporting improved.
Although the new system will no longer allow CGC staff to verify industry numbers, Morgan said is no reason to believe grain handling companies will knowingly withhold information.
“There’s no reason to suspect that industry would use some sort of bias or cause the numbers to be skewed,” he said.
“I am less worried about (the quality of) information than someone from the outside looking in might be.”
The statistical package will have a significantly different look, he added.
Some data contained in the revamped Grain Statistics Weekly will no longer be comparable to data contained in older versions of the publication.
For example, the elimination of transfer elevator licensing means that statistics previously collected at transfer elevators will now be combined with data collected at terminal elevators.
“It is going to look very different to a lot of users,” Morgan said.
“We’re basically taking and doing a 180 with our report.
“We do want to hear from users … as to what level of detail they want.”