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Our History: U.S. expands war on Canadian wheat

Our History: May 1994

The world wheat trade war was in full swing in 1994, as we reported in our May 26 issue. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy had been in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil the previous week, urging them to take action against what he claimed was price undercutting by the Canadian Wheat Board. Espy claimed the CWB was offering wheat at $60 to $75 per tonne under the cost of production, but CWB commissioner Richard Klassen countered that its price was $22 per tonne over the U.S. What with huge U.S. and EU export subsidies, it’s likely that everyone was selling below the cost of production — we reported an EU sale at $93 per tonne ($2.53 per bushel) f.o.b.

Grain was starting to move at the West Coast again after “a crippling longshoremen’s strike in February, a shortage of rail cars and tough negotiations with grain handlers.”

After disastrous flooding in the U.S. the previous year, the Midwest was now looking for moisture. Corn and soybeans futures had jumped to 10-month highs.

Manitoba had the same problem — a photo showed a ditch full of topsoil near Carman following “scorching gale-force winds” May 17. However, the crop report for the week ending May 24 said showers had arrived across most of the province afterward, and seeding was 75 per cent or more complete in most areas.

The next week we reported that a long-running bull market in cattle had crashed, with Alberta cattle selling at 80 cents compared to 97 cents in early April.

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