Canada’s quality, consistency questioned

High standards suffering | A foreign grain buyer lists problems with underweight shipments, uneven protein

Recent shipments to a significant Asian buyer are damaging Canada’s reputation for quality and consistency in grain, says a senior company representative.

He urged the Canadian grain in-dustry to take a hard look at what’s going wrong so Canada doesn’t lose premium overseas markets.

“We don’t know what’s going on in the system here that can create these kind of issues, but hopefully practice makes perfect,” said Derek Sliworsky of Singapore-based Prima Group.

Sliworsky, the former CWB representative in Japan, cited an array of problems with Canadian wheat and durum that his company has noticed recently.

The most obvious were long de-lays and uncertainty with how long Canadian grain would take to arrive in 2013-14 because of the rail problems.

One of those delays with a container of specialized wheat prompted his company to switch to another supplier.

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“We had to switch our complete grist and then, even though I’m Canadian and I like to buy more Canadian wheat, when I go back to our (production and marketing) guys and say, ‘can we switch back,’ they’ll say, ‘can you guarantee the wheat will get here on time next time,’ ” said Sliworsky.

“It’s hard to put that guarantee to them. They changed the grist and now it’s going to take a pretty good reason to switch it back.”

Last year’s logistics problems are a well-told story, which many think was the result of unique temporary factors.

However, Sliworsky detailed a number of other quality and consistency problems Prima experienced:

  • Uneven protein levels in “high grade” Canadian wheat. Sliworsky said the Canadian Grain Commission told Prima it had stopped tightly controlling protein variances within large shipments and instead looked only for a “composite” level. Sliworsky said the CGC should have better informed buyers about the change.
  • Large amounts of unwanted peas in a container of high-quality wheat. The buyer found 850 kilograms of peas in a 25-tonne wheat shipment.
  • A shipment of wheat was 375 tonnes short. The unloading company’s measures showed wide variability hold-to-hold from the ship. However, the CGC told the company the weights were correct.

“We’re just one buyer, so if it happens to us it probably happens to others,” said Sliworsky.

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He encouraged the Canadian grain industry to investigate why Canada’s usually high standards and consistency appear to have suffered recently. He also urged the Canadian industry to promote its wheat better, especially new varieties with high value uses.

“We have other sellers approaching us, particularly from Australia,” said Sliworsky.

“We’re seeing that from other places, but after deregulation happened we’re not really seeing that side from Canada.”

The monopoly-era CWB used to keep close contact with buyers and promote specialized products, but it does not have that role now that it is just a small grain company.

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  • Canadian farmer

    Main reason the canadian wheat should not have been dismantled ,, now too many cooks spoil the soup ,,, we foreign companies who only care about the bottom line ,, not Canada’s reputation , in fact if they damage Canada’s reputation the value of the commodity in their home country goes up . Before the single desk seller ,, yes , that’s what it was ,, not a monopoly ,, read the definition of monopoly and you will see ,, anyway ,, it was a non profit organization that had the canadian farmer ‘s best interest at hand ,, hence the integrity of the canadian reputation went hand in hand ie it was in the interest of the former cwb to maintain that integrity . Hence they were well known and our product was well respected ,, thank those uneducated people that wanted the wheat board gone . P.s . I am a canadian farmer with a double major in economics from the university of Alberta . I am presently marketing my own grain over seas myself ,, a job our cwb used todo for us ,, my no1 15.5 protein wheat is getting me 14 dollars a bu ,,,

  • D v

    Premium overseas markets? Where is the farmer premium? Grain companies aren’t paying enough premium for the good stuff!

  • John Wayne

    Ritz was very unwise to loosen the standards and authority of the Canadian Grain Commission. Under the CWB single desk farmers had a sheriff that guaranteed quality and consistency with the help of the Canadian Grain Commission. Industry does not govern themselves by standards when there is no cost or penalties imposed. Industry is governed by one thing only, the dividend dollar. All this “free dumb” is costly to the primary producer.
    Ritz with his destruction of the CWB single desk always promoted farmers would have more competition. I had 70 international customers to sell to and now it appears with this article we could lose international customers. I am very concerned Mr. Sliworsky. This problem is only going to get worse because the quality issues in Western Canada are worse this year than last.

  • Terry

    Hmmmmm
    Handing over more control to grain companies and rail companies didn t work? The degradation of the CGC the closure of producer car sidings on and on and on. Less farmers, more sprayers on the landscape. We need to take a good long hard look at who this all benefits and ask ourselves particularly in Canada and ask would there be anything to market, grade , spray or elevate if not for the primary producer. The lack of respect for farmers is the problem. Maybe if these grain handling companies, equipment dealers and input sellers had to pare down like farmers there would be a mutual agreement to grow food in a responsible way. This is where corruption lies in the developed world and local profits leave Canada.
    Less and less farmers means more and more control for someone else

  • Trader Joe

    ^The lack of premium for the Canadian grower has everything to do with the terribly inefficient export terminals on the Westcoast. Turnover rates are less than half of what they are compared to our American cousins in Oregon and Washington. The basis spread between country and terminal is borderline theft.

    You want better value.. start banging the drums for the government to do something about this.. Would bring way more value to the grower than any single desk system could ever do.