Farmers renew call for more comprehensive market data

Canadian farmers says receiving more timely data on export sales would help level the playing field with producers in the United States, where such reporting is mandatory. | File photo

Federal government asked to establish an Export Sales Reporting Program to improve market transparency for producers

Farm groups in Saskatchewan have renewed calls for better grain markets and export information.

Last week, a coalition of farmer-directed organizations including the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (SaskWheat), the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission, SaskCanola, SaskFlax, SaskOats, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) called on the federal government to establish an Export Sales Reporting Program to improve market transparency for farmers.

They say it would help growers make more informed decisions about what crops to grow and when to sell them.

The proposed program would include more timely data on export sales of major cereal grains, oilseeds, pulses and special crops.

The Saskatchewan farm groups would also like to see improvements to existing Canadian reports that contain projections on seeded acreage, in-season grain export volumes and ending stocks data, which is critical to making informed marketing decisions.

The creation of a mandatory export reporting program would put Canadian farmers on a more equal footing with American grain farmers, who already have access to a more robust export reporting system.

The reporting system in the United States requires grain exporters to provide more detailed and timely information on grain shipments and provides a clearer picture of where U.S. grain is being sold and at what prices.

The Saskatchewan producer groups say Agriculture Canada’s current review of the Canada Grain Act provides “a significant opportunity to expand the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC’s) responsibilities to collect and disseminate data in a more timely and meaningful manner that would improve market transparency.”

“I think what we’re looking for is a template a little bit more like what the U.S currently has,” said Todd Lewis, a grain farmer and president of APAS, the province’s general farming organization.

In an interview with The Western Producer, Lewis said enhanced market information — including mandatory reporting of export sales volumes, prices and destinations — would lead to better marketing decisions at the farm level and would allow growers to make more informed planting decisions.

“I think it’s something that is long overdue,” Lewis said.

“The grain companies talk about (protecting their) commercial interests and not wanting to release this information but they do it in the United States. It’s mandatory in the United States, and it’s done in such a way that it hasn’t hurt their industry.

“As far as commercial interests go, grain farmers have lots of commercial interests too and price discovery is something that’s pretty important to our industry.”

Earlier this year, five producer-funded crop commissions in Saskatchewan passed resolutions at their annual general meetings calling for export reporting changes that would lead to better market transparency for growers.

The CGC currently collects data on export grain sales but some observers say the information collected by the commission lacks detail and is outdated by the time it is presented.

In April, SaskWheat released a report prepared by Mercantile Consulting Venture Inc., whose principals include well-known market analyst Marlene Boersch.

The commissioned report suggested that the lack of timely data on export grain sales puts Canadian farmers at a competitive disadvantage to other players in the supply chain who have much of this information available to them.

The CGC or other government-enabled agencies “must be granted access to handling and movement data from crop handlers and exporters, as well as the means to enforce timely and accurate reporting by the companies,” the report added.

The Mercantile Consulting report also suggested that the removal of single desk marketing for export wheat and barley in 2012, combined with consolidation in the Canadian grain system over the past 40 years, has compounded the “asymmetry in information between producer and exporter.

“In Canada, there is no sales reporting (volume or price), and actual export data arrives with a five-to-six week delay,” the report said.

“This means that the export market dynamics are not readily visible to agricultural producers. At the same time as the Canadian producers are expected to make considered and rational sales and crop choice decisions, they are at a distinct competitive disadvantage to others in the market chain when it comes to information.”

The full Mercantile Consulting report can be viewed on SaskWheat’s website at bit.ly/36qHv0g.

In a joint news release issued July 5, the Saskatchewan producer groups said failure to provide growers with a more robust export reporting system represents “a missed opportunity to put Canadian farmers on a more level playing field” with their American counterparts and with others stakeholders in the Canadian grain supply chain.

The producer groups have written to federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, highlighting the opportunity to improve farmer profitability and strengthen the Canadian economy with the creation of a mandatory export sales reporting program.

“SaskWheat strongly believes that Canadian farmers need timely access to sales and export data, like the data available to American farmers through the longstanding USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Export Sales Reporting Program,” SaskWheat said recently.

“Although the CGC does currently report on exports from licensed facilities, this historic data does not represent current sales that are being made in the market and therefore, farmers are unable to use this data as a gauge for current demand.”

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