Canada aims to end Wheat Board monopoly in 2012

Wed May 18, 2011 4:24pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer and Rod Nickel

OTTAWA/WINNIPEG (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government will likely introduce legislation this autumn that will end the Canadian Wheat Board's marketing monopoly on wheat and barley in 2012, the agriculture minister said on Wednesday.

Western Canada's grain industry has operated since World War 2 under a monopoly that forces farmers to sell wheat and barley to the board, unlike other crops such as canola.

Farmers who oppose the Wheat Board have long urged the government to end the world's last major agricultural monopoly, saying they want the freedom to find the best possible prices. Other farmers who support the CWB say the clout of the its single marketing desk brings them the best, most reliable returns.

The legislation would take effect in August 2012, the beginning of the 2012-13 crop marketing year, said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, shortly after Prime Minister Stephen Harper reappointed him to the post in the new cabinet.

"Everyone recognized the complexity of this," Ritz told reporters. "It is going to take a certain amount of work with (industry groups and farmers). All has to dovetail in to make the farm gate stronger."

Shares of Canada's top grain handler, Viterra, rose in Toronto after Ritz's comments, ending up more than 2 percent.

Earlier in the day, Viterra Chief Executive Mayo Schmidt said ending the monopoly would speed improvements to Canada's grain-handling system.

After the Conservatives won a parliamentary majority in the May 2 election, giving them the power to end the monopoly without help of other parties, the Wheat Board has dusted off old contingency plans, said its elected chairman, Allen Oberg, who farms in Alberta.   Continued...

<p>Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz holds a copy of the report on the 2008 Listeriosis outbreak that killed 22 Canadians during a news conference in Ottawa July 21, 2009. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>