On Tuesday Viterra gave one million dollars to the Canadian International Grains Institute – and made an implicit challenge to the other Prairie grain heavyweights to help out with recapitalizing the institution.
It’s a lot of money, with no strings attached other than renaming an existing classroom with the Viterra name, but it’s a much-needed dose of cash for an institution that is bulging at the seams and is having trouble living within its existing building near Portage and Main in Winnipeg.
(The people speaking in the video are, in order, the wonderful Ed White, Kyle Jeworski of Viterra, Earl Geddes of CIGI, Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz, Jeworski again, Geddes again, and me again. Note three things particularly: while Jeworski is talking, it appears that I was knocked over. I have no memory of that, but I have poor recall these days. And note my Liverpool Football Club head thingy in the opening stand-up. I put that on just to amuse my news editor Terry Fries, plus it was cold outside. Also note Shannon VanRaes of the Manitoba Cooperator in the scrum with Geddes. She’s awesome and we’re often in the same scrums. The hoarse voice croaking questions is mine. Bit of laryngitis following a cold.)
This money will help CIGI keep up the heady pace of its existing programs of bringing in millers and other users of Canadian crops from around the planet and farmers from across Western Canada to learn more about – and how to use – Canadian grains, oilseeds and pulses, as well as add new programs for both Canadian industry and foreign grain users. In the post-CWB monopoly world, CIGI has moved into some of the CWB-sized void for promoting the use of Canadian crops around the world.
It needs a lot more money. The present office building it’s in is totally inadequate for what it needs to become – and has been for years. Milling and baking equipment has gotten bigger and more complex, and CIGI has added a lot in recent years to highlight pulse crop processing and product formulation. It probably needs about $12 million and to get into a new building in downtown Winnipeg, and to stay in The Peg permanently.
Viterra’s gift is a helpful contribution that will hopefully cause the other big grain companies, grain merchants and other private operators in the Prairie grain business to pony up their own money and get CIGI revitalized. Farmers through their various commissions and checkoffs are pouring lots of money into CIGI. Government money from federal provincial sources is coming through Growing Forward 2. Companies like Viterra have been paying for CIGI programs that they use to improve their own abilities, but Viterra has gone a step beyond to joining farmers and governments in offering money just to help CIGI do what it is doing.
CIGI’s job is bigger than ever. A couple of hours after the Viterra-CIGI news conference, I met with a group of Moroccan durum millers who are at CIGI as part of a new federal government-funded program that is taking milling professionals from Morocco and boosting their skills so their milling and cous-cous-making industries can expand further and export more across the world. This program is being funded in order to help Morocco develop its own economy and is not directly connected to any Canadian grain sales or promotion, but since the Moroccans love importing Canadian durum and favour it compared to U.S. and Mediterranean durum, anything that boosts their production and exports is indirectly likely to help Canadian grain sales. The Moroccans are already the leading durum processors in North Africa and export flour and cows-cous to Europe, Africa and South America, so this program is part of helping a good Moroccan industry become great.
That’s the kind of thing that CIGI does, and that’s why farmers, governments and companies are supporting it.