The Canadian cereals industry is united in reaching out to international customers.
The 2016 Canadian Wheat New Crop Missions sessions kicked off on Nov. 10 with a seminar for Canadian millers, the largest buyer of Canadian wheat. By the time the missions are over later this month, they will have reached customers in 17 countries in Asia, Latin America, Europe, North Africa, and West Africa.
Some of our competitors, like the U.S. Wheat Associates, also put on new crop seminars. But Canada is unique because we deliver the entire value chain including representation from farmers, exporters, Canadian Grain Commission, Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), and Cereals Canada.
When customers have a question on Canadian production, we have a farmer in the room to answer. When there are questions on supply or logistics, an exporter is there to provide the right information. Cigi and the grain commission provide unbiased technical information on the grading factors and the technical milling, baking, and pasta- and noodle-making properties. This collaborative effort demonstrates the commitment of Canada’s value chain to supporting our customers and providing them with the opportunity to optimize the value and performance of our wheat.
The missions are about a lot more than industry representatives talking to international buyers. We are also there to listen directly to our customers’ needs and concerns — bringing back these needs and concerns is one of the key objectives of the missions. This feedback allows us to adjust our 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. The recent changes to the wheat classification system are one example of adjustments made in Canada as a result of going abroad to listen directly to the needs of our customers.
Talking to our customers is important in years when everything is going well and high-quality wheat is overflowing. The conversations are even more important in years when things did not go as planned, like the 2016 growing season. Farmers know that the growing season was cooler and much wetter than normal and have experienced one of the most difficult harvests on record. Customers know this too and they want to know the quality effects of the curveballs thrown by Mother Nature.
The news delivered by the Canadian team is better than many customers are expecting. Over half of the Canada Western Red Spring crop is still in the top two grades. The Canadian team is able to assure customers that Canada has good quality to deliver.
But the news is not all good and we can’t hide these facts.
The cooler-than-normal wet summer experienced by much of the Prairies was an ideal environment for the growth of fusarium fungi. This year, fusarium has had minimal effect on the milling, baking, and pasta- and noodle-making properties of wheat and durum But fusarium also produces a mycotoxin called deoxynivalenol or DON, and there are strict limits on DON in most markets because of food safety concerns. Fusarium has especially impacted the record-level durum crop which has seen downgrades because of the fungus.
Because the Canadian team includes the entire value chain we are able to work with customers to help ensure they can access the Canadian quality they have come to expect while meeting their country’s grain safety regulations. The missions also allow Canadian farmers to highlight the strong management practices that allow them to consistently deliver high-quality grain that is sustainability produced. For example, this year’s missions feature presentations from producers who outline the sustainability of modern Canadian agriculture. Farmers demonstrate how their practices are reducing energy consumption, sequestering carbon, reducing erosion, and improving soil health. This is a good news story both here and abroad.
Telling the Canadian agricultural story gives context to our customers about who we are and demonstrates our collective commitment to upholding Canada’s reputation in the global market. Canada is known for quality, sustainability, and the investment of the value chain to ensure we are producing the best product, year after year.
Cam Dahl is president of Cereals Canada, Murdoch MacKay is a commissioner with the Canadian Grain Commission, and JoAnne Buth is CEO of the Canadian International Grains Institute. Information on the New Crop Missions, including presentation material and technical data, can be found at canadianwheat.ca.