CWB still looking for more wheat

Sign-up deadlines for CWB’s pool programs have come and gone, but the former Canadian Wheat Board is still looking for more grain.

"We’ve been able to get some really good sales for the tonnes that we have now, and movement has been really good," said Gord Flaten, CWB’s vice-president of grain procurement. "So, looking to the rest of the year, we’d be interested in doing some additional business."

One way CWB hopes to attract farmers still looking to market their wheat is through its cash contracts, which are different this year than when CWB had a monopoly on all wheat grown in Western Canada.

"In the past the cash options used to be linked to the pools, we had pricing options that would allow farmers to take out cash contracts," Flaten said. "Now, the cash contracts are completely separate from the pools."

The amount of tonnage CWB has had committed to it so far is not being disclosed, but Flaten said they’re satisfied with the number, despite that amount being less than originally anticipated.

"I think the whole industry has seen farmers commit less than they expected at this point in the year and that’s what we saw too," he said.

Flaten said a lot of grain is still uncommitted due to the new open market system, and farmers waiting for stronger prices.

One grain analyst said that probably about 65 per cent of the western Canadian wheat crop has yet to be marketed.

However, the analyst said, it’s probably going to be difficult for CWB to procure some of that wheat because "they’re not paying high enough prices."

The CWB, the analyst said, will likely also run into problems convincing farmers to contract through it, because grain handlers will beat them to the punch.

"The elevator managers for the grain companies know exactly what producers shipped through the wheat board last year," the analyst said. "And, when you see that information right in front of you, you can go in front of CWB and use your sales technique savvy to show the producer that if he delivers his wheat to the non-board market he’s going to make more money."

Flaten noted CWB will continue to focus on procuring grain through its cash contracts for the remainder of the year, and will probably continue to run similar programs next year.

"We’ve had pretty positive feedback on our pools and our programs so far, so I expect that we’ll look at similar programs for next year," he said. "But, we’re going to keep our minds open and respond to what farmers tell us."

– Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.