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% 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, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission.