Farmers key players on mission

The 2017 new crop missions visited Canada’s top customers and provided technical data and support as part of Team Canada Wheat.

Who are Canada’s top customers? Some of the answers, such as Japan, will be no surprise to anyone, but many would not expect to see one of our newest top customers, Nigeria, on the list.

Nigeria has become a top customer for Canadian wheat and this is the second year we have visited it as part of the new crop missions.

Nigeria has a young population of more than 200 million people with an annual population growth rate of three percent, meaning there will be more demand for wheat imports in the future.

Our commitment to providing technical support and data through new crop missions is essential to maintaining export relationships.

As an emerging country, Nigeria is concerned with food safety and getting consistent quality wheat.

The Canadian team included members from the entire value chain so we were able to work with customers to ensure they could access the Canadian quality they have come to expect while meeting their country’s grain safety regulations.

Nigeria is also price sensitive. Purchasing Canadian Western Red Spring wheat, in place of U.S. exports, enables them to minimize costs while still delivering higher quality flour through a blend of Canadian and Black Sea wheat.

In 2007, Canada exported 24,600 tonnes of wheat to Nigeria, which grew to 728,419 tonnes in 2017. Canada’s five-year-average for wheat exports to Nigeria is 623,125 tonnes.

Some farmers wonder if there is any value in having a producer along on these support missions. Before I was part of the missions, I was one of those people. But participating has made it clear to me that it is critical to have farmers as part of Team Canada Wheat.

When customers have questions on Canadian production practices, I was in the room to answer. I was there to talk about the sustainability of Canadian farming and to explain why we use crop protection products. I was able to deliver the message about Canadian clean air, clean water and clean land, an increasingly important part of the Canadian brand.

Most of our major competitors carry out similar missions, but the Canadian approach to customer support is unique. We take the entire value chain with us to talk to customers. When there were questions on supply or logistics, an exporter was there to provide the right information.

The Canadian International Grains Institute and the Canada Grains Council provided unbiased technical information on the grade factors and the technical milling, baking, and noodle making properties.

This collaborative effort demonstrated Canadian commitment to supporting our customers.

The Canadian missions also provide an opportunity to listen directly to our customers’ needs and concerns. Bringing these back to Canada is a key objective of the missions. The feedback allows Canada to adjust its grading and classification systems to give buyers what they want and to focus research goals on the traits and qualities that will get the highest return from the market.

As a farmer who has sat on the boards of the Alberta Wheat Commission and Cereals Canada, I have seen first-hand the value of supporting my customers. I am proud to see that the reach for Canadian wheat is expanding.

Providing technical expertise and information on quality and functionality, the new crop missions facilitate new customer dependence on Canadian wheat.

Greg Porozni is a farmer from Alberta.

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