Canadian growers are missing key information

Data services | Producers should be receiving more detailed price and export sales data, says commission head

Canadian farmers have lost great grain market information, but few seem to have noticed.

As well, prairie farmers have never had some of the crop and market reporting that U.S. farmers take for granted.

It creates an information void in the post-CWB monopoly world that shouldn’t be left unfilled, but how to fill it is a tough question, says the chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

“Some of these things need pieces to be slowly put in place, and we just need time to do it and get it all co-ordinated,” said Kent Erickson.

“Everybody was excited, either positively or negatively, by the changes to the wheat board monopoly, but we didn’t all necessarily realize the ripple effect of all the little things that would change.”

For instance, there is no unified prairie crop report. Each prairie province puts out its own, with unique areas of focus, different frequencies of publication and levels of analysis and reporting.

Pricing and much export sales information is available only in the sporadic reporting of farmers and companies and by indirect reports from organizations such as the Canadian Grain Commission.

Some see this as a danger to farmers and small companies active in the prairie grain trade.

The giant grain companies know much about the state of the prairie crop, export sales and the overall market because they dominate large parts of it, but smaller companies and the thousands of individual prairie farmers have little access to direct information.

Across the border, the U.S. Department of Agriculture collects, collates and publishes a wide variety of information. Traders, companies and farmers rely on the information to give them a sense of the true state of crops and markets.

In Western Canada, CWB used to fill much of that function with its price forecasts, market outlooks and crop surveillance function. It filled in gaps and helped bring together some of the disparate information sources on wheat, durum and barley.

Erickson said few farmers have probably noticed the absence of the monopoly board this summer, with high prices and a crop in the field drawing most of the attention.

The new wheat and barley commissions and cereals council could collect and publish some of the essential information, Erickson said.

“I can see somewhere down the road some sort of producer organization forming a collaboration for things like that,” he said.

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