Canada's Reputation Can't Afford Another Logistical Breakdown: Cereals Canada President


Western Canadian farmers know all too well what kind of impact the logistical challenges of the last year had on local grain prices, but how did the rail backlog impact international customers? How concerned are they about the reliability of Canadian grain shipments?

To get a feel for what overseas buyers are saying, I spoke with Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada, who just returned from meeting with customers in Japan, Korea, China and Indonesia.

Debra Murphy, 2012
Debra Murphy, 2012

“It should be no surprise to anyone that follows the Canadian grain industry that transportation logistics is inevitably one of the first questions that our customers ask about,” says Dahl in the interview below. “There’s no question that Canada’s reputation took a hit last year, and we simply can’t afford a breakdown like that again. Our reputation and our ability to sell at a premium depends on delivering when we say we’ll deliver.”

Several speakers at the Cereals North America conference in Winnipeg in late October raised similar concerns about the health of Canada’s reputation. Mark Hemmes of Quorum Corporation, which monitors grain movement by rail for the federal government, said long wait-times for ships on the West Coast are hurting Canada’s “effectiveness as a trading nation.” Derek Sliworsky, a former Canadian Wheat Board employee now representing Prima Group — a large Asian buyer of Canadian wheat, also described problems with shipments showing up months late.

Dahl says the Canadian government’s move to mandate movement of grain by rail sent a positive message to customers he spoke with in Asia: “They have been reassured by the actions that have been taken to ensure that grain gets moving and they take reassurance from the volumes of grain that have been moved since spring.”

In the past, the Canadian Wheat Board would work with the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian International Grains Institute on handling customer complaints; Dahl says that’s one of the reasons why Cereals Canada is partnering with the CGC and Cigi to promote Canadian grain and provide customer support.

“That’s what this ‘Team Canada’ approach is all about. It gives customers that window of reliable response if they have concerns or issues,” he notes.

Three delegations representing “Team Canada”  (Cereals Canada, the CGC and Cigi) are currently touring Asia, South America and Europe, informing customers about the 2014 crop. By the middle of December, they will have hosted 28 seminars in 20 countries, says Dahl.

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