Soviet tractor sales and plugged grain terminals

Our History: September 1985

In tiny print at the bottom, this ad for Belarus tractors in our Sept. 12, 1985 issue hoped to influence farmers by noting that they were manufactured in the USSR, Canada’s largest grain customer.

Soviet sales had been a bit slow and a front-page story reported on plugged terminals and slow shipments through Thunder Bay, but trade sources were talking of a huge wheat board sale of 4.2 million tonnes. The board was booking large amounts of lake freight before the close of navigation and a spokesman hinted things would look better by the end of the month.

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Statistics Canada reported that Manitoba would harvest a record grain crop of 8.7 million tonnes, 19 per cent over the previous year. Our neighbours to the west were less fortunate — drought meant Saskatchewan was eight per cent and Alberta 23 per cent below the five-year average.

However, quality was another matter — later in our Oct. 10 issue we reported that outside the Red River Valley, where most of the crop was off, only 55 per cent of the wheat had been harvested. A story from the Cardale area said farmers had not turned a wheel for a month.

We also reported on a relatively new phenomenon called fusarium head blight in wheat, and the grain commission was testing samples for toxicity.

Discussion of a free trade agreement with the U.S. was heating up and our editorial mused on its implications for agriculture. Prairie Pools had released a study which estimated an agreement would add $200 million to beef sales by 1995, but only $9 million to hog sales and losses of $120 million to chicken and turkey producers.

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