(February 16, 2016) Another family day domino fell this week with the report that a major Canadian food retailer was replacing pasta manufactured with prairie durum with pasta imported from Turkey of all places.
It should be remembered that with the single-desk Wheat Board pretty much all the pasta consumed in Canada was made with prairie durum. The Wheat Board had a policy of keeping competition among durum purchasers alive by equalizing freight costs for processors.
This meant more wheat and durum was milled and made into flour and pasta on the prairies than in the same grain growing areas of the United States. It also meant that the big eastern flour and pasta plants in Ontario used prairie wheat. It was a very profitable premium market for prairie farmers and took somewhere around 20% of our annual production of wheat and durum wheat.
This Wheat Board policy meant that essentially all the bread, pasta, and most of the beer in Canada was made with prairie wheat and barley. As this organization warned in 2011 “the end of the Wheat Board means the end of local food.”
Now the Wheat Board is gone along with its policies encouraging local processing. Combine this with very cheap ocean freight and it is apparently more economic for eastern retailers to buy Turkish pasta than it is to purchase locally produced pasta made with prairie durum. Ocean freight on 4,800 nautical miles from Turkey is apparently cheaper than dealing with the uncertain and unreliable private trade to acquire grain 3,300 miles away on the southern Canadian prairies.
Some Canadian pasta processors have complained this Turkish pasta is subsidized, and that may well be the case. However that ultra cheap ocean freight may also mean that sourcing wheat from the Ukraine, which is a mere 600 nautical miles away is now more economic than importing even heavily discounted prairie durum.
Speaking of Canada’s southern prairies, it was three years ago, on Family Day, that the giant American firm, Archer Daniels Midland announced it was closing its flour mill at Medicine Hat, in the center of prairie wheat country, and consolidating operations in Calgary.
The family day hits from the abusive and short-sighted Harper regime just keep on coming for Canadian families and the prairie farmers who work to feed them.