Conversations taking place on potential Cigi and Cereals Canada amalgamation

The end of the Canadian Wheat Board as a single desk marketer of Canadian wheat and barley five years ago triggered a number of major changes in Canada’s cereal crop industry. Most of the dust stirred up by dismantling the CWB has settled, but there’s potential for more change.

Recognizing gaps left by the end of the CWB in 2012, farm groups and the grain industry created Cereals Canada, a value chain stakeholder organization focused on market development, research and collaboration.

Farmers also picked up where the CWB left off in funding the not-for-profit Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) in its market development and technical expertise training around the world through a temporary five-year levy on grain sales.

As of August 1, 2017, in its 45th year, Cigi has moved on from the temporary levy and adopted a new funding model and board of directors, becoming a 50/50 partnership between producer organizations and grain companies.

Given the overlap in their market development mandates, who’s supporting the two organizations and the collaboration that already exists, is a merger between Cereals Canada and Cigi a logical next step in the post-CWB evolution?

While a long way from happening, it is being talked about in the context of broader discussions in agriculture about maximizing value to farmers and the industry.

Cigi’s new board of directors (l-r)
Back row: Gary Stanford, Trent Rude, Jean-Marc Ruest, Harvey Brooks, Kevin Bender
Front row: Brent Watchorn, JoAnne Buth (Cigi CEO), Drew Baker, Bill Gehl, Jim Smolik
Missing: Ward Weisensel (courtesy Cigi)

“We have to collaborate with other organizations, and in terms of wheat, Cigi and Cereals Canada have to be closely aligned. Whether or not that changes in anything formal, that’s to be seen,” says Cigi CEO JoAnne Buth.

Cigi will be going through a strategic review of its operations with its new board over the next two years — the length of the current funding framework agreed to by producer groups and grain companies.

“I’m not going to prejudge what comes out of that, but I think the effectiveness of a single organization is something we need to look at,” says Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.

Both Buth and Dahl sit as observers on the other organization’s boards. Cereals Canada and Cigi also work with the Canadian Grain Commission on the tripartite “Team Canada” new crop missions to customers every fall.

“Cigi’s expertise is on the technical side, and Cereals Canada is on the market development, market access and high level, global issues, so the collaboration is definitely there,” notes Buth.

Cigi’s home in downtown Winnipeg, a few blocks south of Cereals Canada’s head office.

Cigi is also well-known by millers and bakers around the world — a point that needs to be considered in these conversations, says Buth.

“We don’t want to lose that brand, because that’s important for customers who choose Canadian and to make sure Canada is always on their radar,” she says.

There are some differences in who’s funding Cigi versus Cereals Canada. While Cigi is a partnership between producer groups and grain companies, Cereals Canada operates with a third equal pillar: seed and crop development companies. The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission funds Cigi, but isn’t part of Cereals Canada.

The wheat industry is not the only place where farm and ag industry organizations are looking at how they can increase collaboration. Provincial farm groups in Manitoba have committed to working toward merging, for example.

“Look at the amalgamation that’s going on with different groups,” says Buth. “There are efforts in other organizations to meld together. I think everybody is trying to look for efficiencies to make sure we’re spending all the dollars wisely.”

“This is a relationship that I want to see grow, and it is pretty close already,” says Dahl.

JoAnne Buth joined us on RealAg Radio several weeks ago to discuss the changes at Cigi. Here’s our conversation:

Related: Cigi moves to new funding model and board, signalling end of post-CWB transition

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