This editorial is a joint effort of Cam Dahl, President of Cereals Canada, JoAnne Buth, CEO of the Canadian International Grains Institute and Elwin Hermanson, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission.
There is a new Team Canada hitting the world stage. We have two primary goals: first, we aim to promote the qualities of Canadian wheat and durum to every region of the world. Second, we are bringing feedback from our customers to ensure that Canadian wheat and durum continue to command a premium in world markets.
“Team Canada” is a collaboration between Cereals Canada, the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), provincial crop commissions, Canadian exporters and farmers.
The first trade mission took place in Japan on November 10th. By mid-December, Team Canada will have traveled to countries throughout Asia, Latin America, Europe, North Africa and the Mideast to conduct seminars with key customers, government officials and agencies. In total, Team Canada we will reach 20 countries.
The successful launch of this new Team Canada is the result of coordination and cooperation between all links in the wheat and durum value chain – government, researchers, industry and producers. Together, Team Canada is providing customers around the world with a comprehensive overview of how the 2014 Canadian crop will perform in their mills and high quality breads, steamed buns and noodles that will be made from every class of Canadian wheat and durum. And in return, Team Canada is gaining valuable market intelligence that will help to better understand the needs of our international customers, and provide better market signals back to the Canadian farm.
The new crop seminars begin with an overview of grain farming in Canada from a farmer representative. Industry and CGC officials then review the 2014 growing season, crop conditions and grade patterns. Scientists from Cigi and CGC give a comprehensive, research based review of the milling, baking and noodle making properties of the 2014 crop. Anyone interested can review the technical information presented through the Team Canada missions by visiting any of the websites of the principle organizations involved (e.g., www.CerealsCanada.ca).
Providing technical information and support to our customers around the world is a paramount goal for Team Canada. But the new crop missions are about more than information flowing to our customers. The seminars also provide customers with a key opportunity to provide input to, and raise concerns with, the Canadian value chain.
In the past, the CWB provided a single window for concerns and questions from customers. The new Team Canada approach is designed to assure customers that Canada’s quality assurance systems are still in place and that the Canadian value chain is listening and will respond to their needs.
It will not surprise anyone in Western Canada to learn that transportation is almost inevitably one of the first areas of concern raised by customers around the world. The transportation problems experienced during the fall and winter of last year have harmed Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier. While customers and governments have been reassured by the actions taken to clear the backlog and fill contracts it is clear that we cannot afford to see another year like 2013/14.
The inclusion of the entire value chain within Team Canada gives us the opportunity to provide information directly back to Canadian farmers, Canada’s research community and private crop development companies. For example, we have heard concerns in the past few years that the gluten strength of Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) has been slipping. Providing this information to Canadian producers has allowed them to select varieties that have stronger protein, resulting in a stronger protein profile in the 2014 crop. Knowing what customers are demanding from Canada has also promoted industry and the CGC to begin a review of the classification system to ensure that the varieties listed in each class will continue to meet customers’ needs going forward.
The Team Canada approach does not end with the new crop missions. In order to better understand the needs of our customers, Cigi and Cereals Canada have launched a comprehensive review of future customer needs. The results of this study will guide ongoing customer support and outreach as well as help the Canadian value chain develop a strategic plan for public and private investments in innovation.
Forming the new Team Canada allows the Canadian value chain to provide critical customer support as well as guide the forward development of our industry. Both are critical to maintaining Canada’s competitive advantage on the world stage. Everyone involved in the industry will benefit.