Minister Ritz claimed there would be more choice and freedom without our single desk. The sale of Viterra underlines just how faulty that logic was.
After the Wheat Pool cooperatives were bankrupted in the early 1990s their remains were cobbled together into Viterra. Several generations of work by western Canada’s farmers to build a cooperative farmer owned grain handling system were effectively stolen from the farm community. Now the parts of that system are being re-shuffled again for the benefit of the private trade so they can take more from farmers.
Viterra’s massive Cascadia export terminal in Vancouver will be 25% owned by James Richardson Company out of Winnipeg and they also acquire some of Viterra’s inland elevators across the prairies.
Glencore the giant European based trading company in announcing the deal said it would “be earnings enhancing to Glencore in the first full year after consolidation” which is a nice way of saying someone will get less money so Glencore’s shareholders can have more.
What this means for farmers who have to grow and deliver grain to elevators is that in many communities all the elevators, usually the only elevators within 100 miles, will be owned by one company. Even where there is more than one elevator company, they will be hostage to one railway or the other – so much for increased choice and competition.
Even producer car shippers can’t escape this nightmare. Cargill is the only company that has more capacity at its export terminals than it does inland. So the other companies with terminal elevators are not going to be inclined to displace their own grain, in their own system, to accommodate grain from shortlines and producer cars. That leaves Cargill as the only game in town for producer cars and CN rail as their only transportation link. Producers on a CP line will have to pay the railways to switch their cars to a CN serviced terminal. For those not shipping producer cars, as of August 1, the private elevator companies will own the grain as soon as it leaves the farmers’ truck and the CWB is simply another broker in the chain.
Here is a list of the Viterra elevators it is reported Richardson will acquire while Glencore will own the rest of Viterra’s elevators. Which company will be your new lord and master?
With the end of our CWB’s single desk we can see it means less of everything for farmers and their communities. Let us pray. . .