Canadian wheat not in decline: officials

The Western Producer recently published comments from an international grain broker that led the paper to ask the question, “is Canadian wheat in decline?

We are pleased to answer that question with an unequivocal “no.” In fact, it is quite the reverse.

The wide-ranging comments brought up questions on logistics, grain grading and return to Canadian farmers. We would like to deal with those issues in turn.

There is no question that the transportation and logistics failures in 2013-14 hurt Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier of consistent high quality wheat.

Customers and governments have been reassured by the actions taken to clear the backlog and fill contracts, but it is clear that we cannot afford to see another year like 2013-14. On this front we would agree with the buyer.

The grain broker also expressed concern regarding changes made to the Canadian Grain Commission’s vessel certification process.

Before last year, the commission required every 2,000 tonnes of grain going into a vessel to meet precise specifications. This is commonly referred to as “incremental certification.” If one 2,000 tonne interval is out of specification, the grain must either be removed or certified to a lower grade.

This approach to certification does ensure uniform loading of the entire vessel, but it is also time consuming and expensive.

Starting last year, the grain commission offered the Canadian industry and customers a more efficient and less costly option: composite certification. Under this option, individual increments can deviate slightly from specifications as long as the composite sample for the whole vessel meets the requirements.

There is an absolutely critical word in the above paragraph: option. Incremental certification is still available if customers wish to continue using it.

This is one of the key information pieces that the new Team Canada delivered when visiting 20 countries as part of the new crop missions this past fall.

Team Canada is a collaboration between Cereals Canada, the Canadian International Grains Institute, the grain commission, provincial crop commissions, Canadian exporters and farmers.

It provides customers around the world with a comprehensive value-chain overview of how Canadian wheat will perform and the changes to the Canadian system that will ensure that customers in every region of the world get exactly what they want when they want it.

However, delivering what the customer orders does not mean selling our premium quality wheat at a discount.

The broker interviewed by the Western Producer stated that in the past he would consistently get better than what he ordered. He would pay for a No. 2 and receive No. 1. It is not a bad thing if this is not happening anymore.

It is not in Canadian farmers’ interest for us to be the discount outlet for premium wheat. As an industry, we must strive to gain the maximum value for everything that Canadian farmers grow. Gaining maximum value means delivering the quality that customers demand and pay for.

The Canadian grain industry has rapidly evolved over the past years. We believe that these changes benefit all parts of the value chain and are helping us meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers rather than the markets of the past.

The comments reported by The Western Producer do demonstrate the need to have open lines of communications with customers in all parts of the world.

This is why the Team Canada approach was launched.

We will continue to reach out to develop new markets and support existing markets when they choose to buy Canadian quality. The Maple Leaf will continue to be the symbol for premium quality in every region of the world.

JoAnn Buth is chief executive officer of the Canadian International Grains Institute, Cam Dahl is president of Cereals Canada, Gary Stanford is president of Grain Growers of Canada and Wade Sobkowich is executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association.

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