U.S. wheat imports dwarfed by Canadian wheat exports

Canada exported 3.31 million tonnes of wheat a year to the U.S. between mid-2012 and mid-2015. In that same period, the U.S. exported about 53,000 tonnes of wheat to Canada per year.  |  File photo

Volume of wheat trade across the American border is predominantly north to south, according to USDA report

The amount of American wheat that’s delivered to Canadian grain elevators is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of Canadian wheat that’s sold south of the border each year.

That’s according to a report prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA’s Report to Congress on Policy Barriers to U.S. Grain Producers says the amount of Canadian wheat exported to the United States averaged 3.31 million tonnes a year between mid-2012 and mid-2015.

By comparison, the amount of U.S. wheat exported to Canada during the same three-year period averaged 53,000 tonnes per year.

The report also states that:

  • 3.2 million tonnes of American wheat are produced within 80 kilometres of a Canadian grain elevator, including 11 percent of Montana’s annual wheat production, 28 percent of North Dakota’s and eight percent of Minnesota’s.
  • One million tonnes of American wheat are produced within 40 km of a Canadian grain elevator, including nine percent of North Dakota’s annual production and four percent of Montana’s.
  • Ninety-eight percent of the wheat that is imported each year by the United States is grown in Canada.
  • Seventy-four percent of the wheat imported into Canada each year is grown in the U.S.
  • The U.S. ships 11,000 tonnes of milled flour to Canada a year and 75,000 tonnes of finished pasta products, accounting for 40 to 45 percent, respectively, of total U.S. exports of these products worldwide.

The USDA report says that despite recent efforts to streamline Canada’s varietal registration system, the system remains slow and cumbersome.

Canada’s varietal registration process is partially responsible for restricting access to Canada’s commercial grain handling system and denying equitable treatment to American wheat producers who wish to sell their grain north of the border, the report says.

As of 2012, 340 wheat varieties were registered in Canada, including 56 that originated in the U.S, the report adds.

However, of the 56 U.S. varieties that were registered in Canada, only 20 are planted by U.S. farmers.

For American farmers in the northern tier states who are interested in growing and exporting a hard red spring wheat, only two U.S. varieties are registered in Canada and grown in the U.S., the report says.

“Despite the changes being implemented to the Canadian varietal registration system, the rate at which Canadian farmers will have access to new varieties will continue to lag behind the adoption rate by farmers in the United States who have immediate access to commercialized varieties,” the report states.

“USDA and USTR (United States Trade Representative) continue to press the Canadian government to move forward swiftly with legislative changes that would enable grain grown outside Canada to receive a premium grade and changes to its varietal registration system.

“USTR will continue to consult with stakeholders and consider all available options to remedy barriers to U.S. grain.“

The report was prepared for U.S. Congress in early 2016 by the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service.

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