Website to shine a light on grain prices

Data updated on a daily basis for eight zones across the Prairies

Don’t know if your local elevator is offering a good price or not? There’s an app for that. Or at least there will be once www.pdqinfo.ca is fully up and running.

The new website, created by the Alberta Wheat Commission with $743,000 in federal funding, aims to give farmers timely and accurate pricing data for grains and oilseeds.

“We feel strongly that this project has the potential to change the way farmers market their crops through access to better and more timely information,” said Kent Erickson, chair of the commission.

“Our ultimate goal is a more transparent market, one that enables producers to be able to capture the marketing opportunities available to them.”

Gerry Ritz

Gerry Ritz
photo: File

Currently it’s hard for grain farmers to get a firm handle on prices being offered for their crops, said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who flew to Edmonton to announce the pro-ject at FarmTech.

“There are a number of websites that are up there now, including some of the grain companies, that claim to be price transparent,” said Ritz. “The problem is a lot of them are two or three weeks out of date. So this will be very timely (and) updated daily or on our half-day basis.”

“There is a varying degree of where farmers are looking for price,” added Erickson, who farms near Irma. “It is currently very fragmented. The new website gives a good benchmark and more accountability is going to make the website better.”

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The website — pdq stands for “price & data quotes” — is currently in pilot mode and offers just a single price for four crops: Canada Western Red Spring, Canada Western Amber durum, Canada Prairie Spring, and canola. The website covers eight zones (three in Alberta, four in Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba) and offers a price for each zone. Additional crops and more detailed pricing will be added in the coming weeks and months, said Erickson.

“The more companies that get involved and contribute to the background of the website, it will make the website that much more robust,” he said.

And there will be a mobile version, too, added Ritz.

“It will be an app on your iPhone or Android or whatever you have, and if you’re looking for a certain price, it will ping you when the market hits that price — that’s the ultimate goal,” said Ritz.

Producers need to have a clear idea of what the current “benchmark” price is before they start calling their elevators, said Erickson.

And any substantial change in that price will alert them that something is moving the market.

“In the environment we’re in right now, a lot of farmers really could use a good benchmark to find out what kind of prices are out there,” he said, adding the new site will “definitely be a time saver” for farmers.

“We all have favourites and we all have good relationships with two or three different companies in our areas,” said Erickson. “Now (producers) really only need to make a couple of phone calls to find out where their prices are at.

“It just makes it a little more transparent and open in where the price is.”

In many cases, he said, farmers are selling their grain on the fly to solve cash flow issues — and they don’t have time to call “six or seven different places to find out what kind of price is realistic.”

“When a guy’s looking to sell a load, it’s going to make it a little easier for them to understand what prices are out there,” Erickson said. “They want to be able to get up to speed as fast as possible, and a tool like this will get them up to speed quicker.”

The new site could also reduce the risk of leaving money on the table when marketing grain, he said.

“I think it keeps everybody more realistic and more competitive, and for farmers, any time you can be more competitive and save time marketing your product is going to benefit you,” he said.

“We just want to give farmers options and the ability to make better, quicker decisions.”

The pricing data will be supplied voluntarily by a cross-section of buyers and sellers, said Ritz, and both he and Erickson said getting their participation will be critical to the success of the initiative.

“The discussions have been ongoing with a lot of them,” said Ritz. “Of course, the smaller and mid-range players like this idea because it lets them show they’re in the game. The bigger ones will tell you, ‘We have our own websites,’ and they do — but it comes down to the accuracy and timeliness of those websites.”

— with files from Jennifer Blair 

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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