Co-ordination called key to barley council realignment

Barley Council of Canada, Cereals Canada, the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre and the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute plan to work more closely together

Six years after it was established, the Barley Council of Canada is switching gears.

The council announced last week that it will undergo a “strategic realignment” that will allow it to serve the Canadian barley industry more effectively.

The realignment will result in a greater level of co-ordination between the BCC and other barley industry organizations, including Cereals Canada, the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC) and the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute (BMBRI), said council chair Zenith Faye.

“Over the past few months, we have engaged in a comprehensive review of the roles and responsibilities of our partners in the value chain,” Faye said.

“As a result of this, we have concluded that our industry would benefit from greater synergies with Cereals Canada, the CMBTC and the BMBRI.”

Faye said the strategic realignment will not result in a merger.

All of the organizations will continue to operate as independent entities with their own staff members and budgets. However, the realignment will allow the four organizations to work more closely together, with the goals of avoiding duplication and pursuing the interests of the Canadian barley industry in a more collaborative and efficient manner.

According to a July 2 news release issued by the barley council, the synergies realized will include a “full-scale collaboration on delivery of services and a sharing of resources … in order to maximize the financial contributions of the value chain.”

Additional details of the realignment will be made public in the coming weeks.

Faye said stakeholder groups saw the need to review functions and identify priorities within the barley value chain.

“We said, ‘OK … let’s take a look at where we are today, where we want to get to and what we’re doing at the present time,’ ” Faye said.

“We brought in all the value-chain proponents, right from the growers through to the exporters and … we said, ‘OK, let’s start with a new page and if we were going to start with a new page, what would it look like.’ ”

Faye said the realignment will recognize the strengths that each organization has currently and will build on those strengths to deliver a greater level of support to all partners in the Canadian barley industry.

“We wanted to make sure we were meeting the needs of all sectors within the value chain.”

The barley council will continue to act as the definitive voice for the barley industry and promote the sector’s general interests.

Expertise in malting, brewing and varietal improvements will come from the CMBTC and BMBRI.

Cereals Canada will contribute expertise in other areas, including market access.

Faye said work aimed at improving co-ordination between the groups is already underway. Acceptance of new malting barley varieties is one example of an area where the Canadian industry could benefit from a more collaborative approach, he added.

“Lots of new malting varieties come on stream every year, but acceptance by the malt and brewing industries is very slow,” he said.

“We have varieties that are 20 and 22 years old that are still the dominant varieties for the malting and brewing industries, but as farmers, we see benefits from the newer varieties because of the agronomic improvements and disease resistance that they offer.

“The brewing industry is very slow to switch to new varieties because they know the (older) varieties very well, but on a net return basis to the producer, the old varieties aren’t making a lot of economic sense.”

Executive leadership at the barley council will also be changing.

Phil de Kemp, who has served as the council’s president and executive director for the past four and a half years, will be retiring.

Former Canterra executive Erin Armstrong will replace de Kemp and will serve as the council’s interim executive director.

“Phil has been a major part of the BCC and I am personally grateful for his service,” Faye said.

“His passion and commitment to the barley and malting industry is like no other, and we wish him the best.”

After several years of declining acreage, the Canadian barley industry is gaining momentum, thanks to strong demand for feedgrains, low domestic supplies and increased 2019 plantings.

“Prices have been strong … so that’s encouraging, and I hope it continues.”

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