Canada’s quality, consistency questioned

High standards suffering | A foreign grain buyer lists problems with underweight shipments, uneven protein

Recent shipments to a significant Asian buyer are damaging Canada’s reputation for quality and consistency in grain, says a senior company representative.

He urged the Canadian grain in-dustry to take a hard look at what’s going wrong so Canada doesn’t lose premium overseas markets.

“We don’t know what’s going on in the system here that can create these kind of issues, but hopefully practice makes perfect,” said Derek Sliworsky of Singapore-based Prima Group.

Sliworsky, the former CWB representative in Japan, cited an array of problems with Canadian wheat and durum that his company has noticed recently.

The most obvious were long de-lays and uncertainty with how long Canadian grain would take to arrive in 2013-14 because of the rail problems.

One of those delays with a container of specialized wheat prompted his company to switch to another supplier.

“We had to switch our complete grist and then, even though I’m Canadian and I like to buy more Canadian wheat, when I go back to our (production and marketing) guys and say, ‘can we switch back,’ they’ll say, ‘can you guarantee the wheat will get here on time next time,’ ” said Sliworsky.

“It’s hard to put that guarantee to them. They changed the grist and now it’s going to take a pretty good reason to switch it back.”

Last year’s logistics problems are a well-told story, which many think was the result of unique temporary factors.

However, Sliworsky detailed a number of other quality and consistency problems Prima experienced:

  • Uneven protein levels in “high grade” Canadian wheat. Sliworsky said the Canadian Grain Commission told Prima it had stopped tightly controlling protein variances within large shipments and instead looked only for a “composite” level. Sliworsky said the CGC should have better informed buyers about the change.
  • Large amounts of unwanted peas in a container of high-quality wheat. The buyer found 850 kilograms of peas in a 25-tonne wheat shipment.
  • A shipment of wheat was 375 tonnes short. The unloading company’s measures showed wide variability hold-to-hold from the ship. However, the CGC told the company the weights were correct.

“We’re just one buyer, so if it happens to us it probably happens to others,” said Sliworsky.

He encouraged the Canadian grain industry to investigate why Canada’s usually high standards and consistency appear to have suffered recently. He also urged the Canadian industry to promote its wheat better, especially new varieties with high value uses.

“We have other sellers approaching us, particularly from Australia,” said Sliworsky.

“We’re seeing that from other places, but after deregulation happened we’re not really seeing that side from Canada.”

The monopoly-era CWB used to keep close contact with buyers and promote specialized products, but it does not have that role now that it is just a small grain company.

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