For Sale: One inexpensive but effective method of segregating different types of wheat according to quality and end-use characteristics. Well used, but in good condition. Reliable, low tech and user friendly – a proven performer. Reason for selling: Don’t like it. It gets in the way of lower wheat prices. Contact: Gerry Ritz, minister of agriculture and agri-food Canada.
Wanted: A rapidly growing wheat industry is seeking an inexpensive but effective method of segregating different types of wheat according to quality and end-use characteristics. Must be low tech, user friendly and reliable, as customers are anxious to add value by marketing wheat with specific end-use qualities. Contact: Emerging wheat economies of the world.
With the federal push to sell capital assets in order to reduce Canada’s burgeoning deficit, perhaps the government should slap a patent on its retired kernel visual distinguishability system and market that to the world.
A new report from the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT) suggests that is where the world of wheat production is heading, especially in the emerging wheat economies of less-developed countries.
Wheat Facts and Futures 2009 identifies consistent quality differentiation for end-use characteristics as a major research target if the current trends toward declining production and yield growth are to be turned around in time to meet growing consumption demand.
Its forecasts suggest that most wheat in developing countries will continue to be consumed as food, while in developed countries a significant portion will be used as animal feed.
If this report is correct, future production growth is most likely in less-developed countries seeking to feed their rapidly urbanizing populations and growing middle class. It predicts the industrialization of processing that has occurred for bread products will soon take place for other products, including chapatis.
“This will result in increased demand for specific and consistent qualities in wheat. The differentiation of wheat products, whether by visible or indirect characteristics, opens the possibility of adding value to the wheat industry, creating extra employment along value chains, and increasing farm gate prices. This in turn may improve incentives for farmers to adopt new varieties with enhanced grain quality characteristics (supported by the necessary crop management practices),” the report says.
“Wheat producers in developing countries will need to be able to meet the end-use requirements of the wheat-processing industry, whose demand for wheat with defined and consistent quality traits will be one of the most, if not the most, important driver for wheat quality improvement in the coming two decades.”
CIMMYT is an internationally funded, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and training related to maize and wheat throughout the developing world. It’s one of 15 Future Harvest Centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (www.cgiar.org).
As countries become industrialized, people do less cooking at home, where variability in flour quality, can be addressed by varying the ingredients, or adjusting the kneading or cooking temperatures. Factory food systems are less forgiving.
The segregation of wheat varieties with specific end-use characteristics into classes that can be readily distinguished by the human eye pretty much fits the bill.
Of course, Canada will likely do just fine with a new system that no longer requires varieties to have visual differences.
With declining numbers of both farmers and wheat acres, the system of declaring by affidavit what variety they are delivering to the elevator will for the most part work. Of course, it means farmers will need to grow certified seed in order to be sure themselves of what they are growing and it’s likely grain-handling charges will rise to cover companies’ increased costs of auditing.
Affidavits aren’t likely to be as reliable in countries where literacy rates are low, farmers grow their own seed and there is a high degree of variability in production methods.
The elimination of KVD in Canada is unlikely to reverse the trend towards declining acreage. For those who would blame the Canadian Wheat Board for that, it’s worth noting the same phenomenon in the U. S., where wheat acres are losing ground to corn.
But it’s a bit ironic that one of the biggest reasons for Canada’s declining wheat acreage is the crop’s relative lack of profitability while the biggest push for getting rid of KVD came from the livestock sector on the basis that it would make wheat less expensive.
And it’s worth remembering that while Canada courts the further commodification of wheat, CIMMYT says the rest of the world is going in the opposite [email protected]