Canadian Wheat Board 2.0 to roll out in weeks

Mon Feb 6, 2012 9:11am EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The 77-year-old Canadian Wheat Board, which will soon lose its monopoly hold over Prairie grain, will be ready to compete openly in the fierce global grain market within weeks, according to the man charged with transforming it.

For the first time in generations, the Wheat Board must compete against heavyweights like Cargill CARG.UL, Viterra VT.TO and Richardson International for Western Canada's 2012/13 wheat, durum and barley, with its monopoly expiring before the next harvest begins.

Its rivals - eager to seize market share of Western Canada's prized supplies of grain for baking, pasta production or beer-brewing - have a head start in signing farmers to forward-delivery contracts for crops they will grow this summer.

Now the Wheat Board is set to wade in by late February, starting with open-market cash and pooling contracts for wheat, durum and barley.

"We are ready to go and we will have a full range of contracts out there," said president and chief executive officer Ian White, in an interview with Reuters at his Winnipeg office.

A Canadian law will strip the CWB of its control over Western Canada's wheat and barley for export or human consumption on August 1. But the law also gives the CWB the option of buying crops from across Canada and around the globe - not just the Prairie crop belt.

And the CWB also intends to branch out from grains by buying canola later this year, with peas possibly following, White said.

"If we see opportunities in the other crops, we certainly will be there."   Continued...

<p>Ian White, President and CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board, poses for a photo in the lobby of the Canadian Wheat Board's office in Winnipeg February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade</p>