New crop mission tells durum’s story

Every year, a few teams of people from the Canadian wheat value chain head off to numerous export markets around the world.

I am taking part in one such mission heading to major durum markets in southern Europe and North Africa.

These “new crop missions” are trips organized by Cereals Canada, the Canadian International Grains Institute and the Canadian Grain Commission.

As a producer on the board for the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, I have the honour of being the farmer in our group. There will be an exporter with us as well.

Some people are likely wondering about the benefit of a trip like this. To me, the benefits are clear.

Think about your relationship with your crop input retailer. Do you just see them once a year when you buy products from them? Or do they grow a relationship with you, trying to show you why you should do business with them? If they don’t form a relationship, the only tool they have to earn your business is price.

In a world where wheat is grown almost anywhere, most of it much closer to market than we are in Canada, price is not a factor on which Canadian producers can compete.

What sets us apart is the quality of the product we produce, the advances we have made over the last couple decades in improving sustainability, and the lengths we go to ensure our customers are satisfied.

When we meet with our buyers, they’re eager to hear the presentation given by the farmer. They are interested in how we grow our crops, how we manage our risks, and the generational legacy we build in our businesses. The producer presentation is a critical aspect of these missions.

We have some important issues to try and resolve. Italy has been an unwilling buyer of Canadian durum, driven by frustrating country-of-origin labelling laws and a campaign against Canadian durum, created by a farm group called Coldiretti.

Unlike 2018, we don’t have a massive crop of largely No. 1 and No. 2 durum. We have a mix of all grades this year, which may create some interesting opportunities. Speaking directly to our buyers will help us understand what those are.

Our international buyers and consumers are interested in how we make our cropping decisions, how we manage difficult harvest weather, how we make pesticide application decisions, and, perhaps most importantly in today’s environment, how we maximize sustainability.

The fact that we try to improve our soils with the goal to pass our farms down to our children is a foreign concept for many parts of the world, and it is something to be celebrated.

I’ll be speaking about these topics when I travel across the ocean.

I’ll be away for nearly two weeks, which is a long time to be away from my young children, but when I think about their future and how we will continue to drive success in growing Canadian wheat and durum, the choice is easy.

This isn’t just about our crop in 2019; it’s about building the future for Canadian agriculture and ensuring our product has a market, now and in the future.

I’m excited for the remarkable privilege of representing Canadian durum producers.

Jake Leguee is a board member of the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission who is participating in the 2019 New Crop Missions.

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