New crop mis­sions tackle dif­fi­cult du­rum mar­kets

The Southwest Booster - - OPINION - SCOTT HEP­WORTH

The Cana­dian Wheat New Crop Mis­sions 2018 are well un­der­way. These are mis­sions or­ga­nized and co­or­di­nated through three or­ga­ni­za­tions: Ce­re­als Canada, Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional Grains In­sti­tute (Cigi) and the Cana­dian Grain Com­mis­sion. They take place over six weeks in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber and in­clude mis­sions to 17 of our top mar­kets for wheat and du­rum. I feel hon­oured to be one of the farm­ers who will be rep­re­sent­ing all western Cana­dian farm­ers dur­ing these mis­sions.

I am cur­rently part of the del­e­ga­tion that is fo­cused on Canada’s lead­ing du­rum mar­kets in­clud­ing Mo­rocco, Al­ge­ria and Italy. It is not an easy time for du­rum grow­ers to­day, with du­rum prices well below the cost of pro­duc­tion.

The pri­mary goal of the mis­sions is to in­form our top cus­tomers about the qual­ity of the 2018 har­vest and how they can ex­pect Cana­dian wheat and du­rum to per­form in their mills, bak­eries and pasta, cous­cous and Asian noo­dle plants. The mis­sions are also about main­tain­ing re­la­tion­ships and di­a­log with cus­tomers. These re­la­tion­ships, which are im­por­tant dur­ing times of nor­mal trade, be­come even more crit­i­cal when is­sues arise that im­pede the free flow of agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties.

Cana­dian ex­ports of du­rum ac­count for ap­prox­i­mately 50 per cent of the world’s du­rum trade. So, when the de­mand for Cana­dian ex­ports are down the world price fol­lows. And de­mand is down in two of our lead­ing mar­kets – Italy and Al­ge­ria. In Italy we are see­ing the im­pact of the pro­tec­tion­ist coun­try of ori­gin la­belling laws and the cam­paign against Cana­dian du­rum be­ing run by the Ital­ian farm group Coldiretti. Al­ge­ria has fo­cused on their larger than nor­mal do­mes­tic crop to serve their do­mes­tic mar­ket – but this du­rum is not of the same qual­ity as Cana­dian.

Saskatchew­an pro­duces ap­prox­i­mately 80 per­cent of the du­rum grown in Canada, so the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a Saskatchew­an farmer is a nat­u­ral fit. The goal of our trip is to re-en­force the value of Cana­dian du­rum in mar­kets that are not buy­ing like they have in the past and to sup­port cus­tomers, like Mo­rocco, who re­main loyal cus­tomers.

This is the first year Sask Wheat has at­tended the mis­sions and I am look­ing for­ward to telling a Saskatchew­an grain farmer’s story to our cus­tomers.

The mis­sions give farm­ers the op­por­tu­nity to speak di­rectly to our cus­tomers, let­ting them know how the de­ci­sions we make on our farms main­tains the Cana­dian brand of clean, con­sis­tent, qual­ity wheat.

When the mis­sion vis­its Italy we will be meet­ing with cus­tomers one-on-one to help re­store the free flow of trade in this im­por­tant du­rum mar­ket. We will also be meet­ing with farm groups in Italy who sup­port science-based rules of trade. The is­sue of Ital­ian coun­try of ori­gin la­belling for pasta will be dis­cussed as will Ital­ian con­cerns about pes­ti­cide residues. On the lat­ter is­sue, farm­ers can do a great deal to keep mar­kets open by fol­low­ing the best man­age­ment prac­tices to limit residues and my­co­tox­ins.

I will also have the op­por­tu­nity to talk about the sus­tain­abil­ity of mod­ern Cana­dian agri­cul­ture. Cana­dian farm­ers have a good story to tell. Mod­ern agri­cul­tural prac­tices are re­duc­ing fuel use, im­prov­ing soil health, re­duc­ing ero­sion, se­ques­ter­ing car­bon and al­low­ing us to pro­duce crops even in drought con­di­tions. At the same time, we are in­creas­ing the qual­ity of the crop we de­liver into in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

The new crop mis­sions in­clude the en­tire Cana­dian value chain. The Cana­dian in­dus­try co­op­er­at­ing in cus­tomer sup­port and de­vel­op­ment ef­forts. The voice of farm­ers is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the pre­sen­ta­tions. The mis­sions also al­low farm­ers to hear ques­tions and con­cerns from cus­tomers’ first-hand. This is ex­tremely im­por­tant, es­pe­cially in a grow­ing pro­tec­tion­ist trade en­vi­ron­ment.

Scott Hep­worth is the Vice- Chair of the Saskatchew­an Wheat De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, and a fourth gen­er­a­tion pro­ducer on his fam­ily farm near Assini­boia

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