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Sales to China a good sign for Canadian Wheat Board
Nipawin Journal
Wheat sales to the world’s most populated country helped save a potentially disastrous year for the Canadian Wheat Board. China came back into the market earlier this year and bought more than 1.8 million tonnes of wheat as well as 350,000 tonnes of barley. According to Board President Ken Ritter and CEO Adrian Measner during the CWB’s annual end of the crop year news conference in Winnipeg Aug. 5, that is the largest sale to that country in close to 10 years.

That purchase averted a catastrophic loss in the 2003-04 crop year as the CWB had no U.S. market for their grains because of a 14 per cent tariff being slapped on wheat. The tariff was recently struck down, which will also make for a better financial situation this crop year.

“China is again becoming a significant buyer and the tremendous future potential sales for Canada is very exciting,” said Ritter.

The fact that China is also buying higher quality grain is a good thing for Canada, added Measner.

“Given the quality and consistency of western Canadian wheat, we are faced with some exciting opportunities to expand our market share in China in the coming years,” he said.

The news regarding China was just one of several positives for the CWB last crop year, including exporting more than 16 million tonnes while selling a total of about 32 million tonnes of wheat, durum and barley through the board. On the wheat side, the board had a 100 per cent acceptance level for the first time in recent memory with the domestic market taking 2.2 million tonnes and China being the largest export market.

For durum, there was only an 80 per cent acceptance due in part to a large Algerian crop that took them slightly out of the market. Measner stated it was the first time in a decade where Algeria hasn’t been the Board’s largest export market. The country only took 378,000 tonnes in 2003-04 while Italy was in top spot buying close to double that amount (672,000 t). Morocco was second with 459,000 tonnes purchased. The Board faced a number of challenges marketing both feed and malt barley last crop year with a larger U.S. crop, lower Chinese demand, high ocean freight and a huge increase in feed pool volumes that was more than double the normal amount.

Measner stated the high ocean freight costs, combined with the BSE findings and SARS outbreak in southeast Asia contributed to troubles for the CWB.

The outlook for this crop year is better with an expected export increase of 1.5-2.5 million tonnes and the continuation of the Board’s good sales program.

“There are going to be some new challenges we are going to have to meet, but we are very positive we will get through them,” said Measner. That optimism comes from the fact there is not much, if any, carry over in the wheat market worldwide and that western Canadian farmers can keep producing high quality grains for export. Measner added there will be pressures on farmers to do just that with an expected record world durum crop, larger world wheat production, record U.S. corn crop and an already good, large malt barley crop in Europe.

The Board is attempting to remain competitive and helping that are transportation savings of more than $36 million in the first three quarters of 2003-04 along with millions in savings from reorganizing the Board. To date, 92 of the anticipated 135 job cuts announced last fall have been made, saving $4.7 million so far. Measner expects the total anticipated savings of $5.5 million to be surpassed when the final numbers are crunched.
MGR Archive 19.8.2004
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