(June 15, 2018)  Japan has announced the (hopefully temporary) suspension of wheat purchases.  The suspension followed quickly after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s announcement yesterday of the discovery of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant wheat in southern Alberta.

Japan was always one of our Canadian Wheat Board’s customers willing to pay premium prices for quality-assured prairie wheat and barley – so much so the CWB maintained a full time office in Tokyo.

One of the reasons the Canadian Wheat Board insisted on caution about introducing Monsanto’s genetically modified wheat in the 2000s was the almost universal response from wheat buyers across the world that they would not purchase the stuff.  As any smart marketer knows, “the customer is always right” and “quality always sells.” The customers didn’t want GM Wheat so Canadian farmers and their Wheat Board smartly listened to what their customers wanted.

Speaking of the opposite of smart marketing, last week the Alberta and other prairie Wheat Commissions received a longish screed calling for the end of our prairie wheat grading system and its harmonization with the much lower US standards.  The authors of this screed included many of the usual anti-Wheat Board activists that had gained the ear of the affable but destructive former Premier of Alberta Ralph Klein and former Harper Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

Other buyers of prairie grain are already unhappy with the continual failings of the big US grain companies to provide quality-assured Canadian prairie grain.  If they follow Japan’s example, wheat farmers facing falling prices with bulging bins will be looking for answers.  They need look no further than the Harper Conservative Members of Parliament who did the bidding of the tiny minority of malcontents that wanted our Wheat Board killed.  A lot of the anti-CWB activists pushing to kill our grading and quality assurance systems are the same people who wanted GM wheat introduced into western Canada.  You can bet they have no plans to take responsibility for this mess.

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With the Canadian Wheat Board prairie grain producers collectively sold their grain to over 70 countries around the world with much of that going to premium markets like Japan.  Now prairie grain farmers sell individually to just a tiny handful of private companies in a market effectively controlled by just three giant corporations.

Whatever happens with grain sales as a result of this GM mess, you can bet the big grain companies will pass any and all extra costs back to farmers as lower prices.  Along with declining prices and totally bungled delivery logistics, the Harper Administration’s legacy of killing the CWB just keeps on taking from prairie farmers and giving to the big grain companies.


Author’s note:  to be scrupulously fair, it should be noted that a few of the anti-CWB activists I met at that time actually supported the CWB’s caution about the introduction of GM wheat, although it did not change their views about ending the single-desk and orderly marketing.

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Note:  this story has been revised.

One comment

  1. Nicholas Tracy

    With NAFTA on the ropes, it is time to recreate the Wheat Board.