Asian customers flock to buy spring wheat from Canada

BRANDON — Canada’s spring wheat is a hot commodity on world markets this winter.

With some exporters short on crop and others tied up with trade snags, Western Canada’s farmers have been happy suppliers to Asia.

“Those countries that are looking for high protein wheats, especially as blends, they really are looking to Canada and the U.S. for that supply,” Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl said at Manitoba Ag Days.

And with the U.S. caught outside the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and in a trade war with China, “demand (for Canadian wheat) in China has increased significantly.”

Dahl was in Asia before Christmas and faced a lot of anxious queries about whether Canada would be able to supply sufficient high protein wheat this winter.

“That was the central question in many of our Asian markets,” said Dahl.

Because of the Sino-U.S. trade war, China appears to have stopped buying U.S. wheat. Often Australia is a major supplier to the Chinese market, but its drought last year has limited its ability to fill the void.

Canada has stepped in and shipped about one million tonnes of wheat to China between August and the end of December, substantially up from the usual crop year total of 300,000 to 350,000 tonnes, Dahl said.

Canadian wheat has also been popular in Japan because of the lower tariffs it faces compared to U.S. wheat, which makes it comparatively cheaper.

The combination of booming Chinese demand and heightened Japanese interest has made Canada’s spring wheat easy to sell, especially with its high quality reputation.

“Canada Western Red Spring is a differentiated product in the world market,” said Dahl.

“We do have differentiated market access. We do have differentiated market prices because of the good quality attributes of Canada Western Red Spring. You’re going to see a bit of that differentiation in empty bins this year.”

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