Crop mission addresses gluten issue

Sometimes a sales call is just about reassuring customers that you’re still there and still have good products, says a farmer who represented Canada on some of the recent New Crop Missions.

That’s especially true after your reputation has been knocked.

“There’s still a little bit of concern about gluten strength,” said Kevin Bender of Sylvan Lake, Alta., who visited Indonesia, the Philippines, Dubai and Nigeria.

Canada’s New Crop Missions visit crucial Canadian export markets annually once there is a rough sense of the size and quality of that year’s production.

A farmer and representatives of the Canadian Grain Commission, the Canadian International Grains Institute and the commercial grain industry tend to comprise each mission.

Bender was the farmer on these recent missions, which gave him a chance to explain what Canadian farmers do and how they do it.

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Overseas buyers were worried about reports that Canada had a bad harvest and a poor growing season, so the mission provided a chance to reassure buyers that Canada still has lots of crop to sell, Bender said.

It was also a chance for Canadian industry representatives to reinforce the idea that the gluten strength issue should disappear as the new wheat class is introduced and the varieties that caused the weak gluten values are removed or reclassified.

Bender said he was happy to be able to reassure buyers on these points because sales bring Canadian farmers a huge amount of value.

For example, the Philippines and Indonesia are regular buyers of Canadian grain but had their confidence rattled by the gluten strength issue.

The Philippines tends to buy Canadian wheat for blending as a way to increase the quality of lesser quality wheat, but it stops being attractive if quality becomes unreliable

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“They had pulled really back on Canadian wheat when they ran into some gluten strength issues,” said Bender.

“We’ve been trying to get them back.”

The visits to Asian buyers was also a chance to boost the profile of Canada in a market that is very close to Australia, a key competitor.

Dubai and Nigeria are also important customers of Canadian crops with Nigeria having the largest population in Africa.

Meeting all the key millers in those countries helps keep Canada top-of-mind in markets also targeted by competitors from Europe and the Black Sea region, Bender said.

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