Ending mandatory inward inspection has forced the Canadian Grain Commission to collect and report data differently
The Canadian Grain Commission is revamping its “Grains Statistics Weekly,” a publication the industry uses to monitor the flow of Canadian grain from country elevator to export due to changes in the Canada Grain Act that took effect Aug. 1.
When mandatory CGC inward inspection ended at terminal elevators, so did the CGC’s ability to collect the weight and grade of all the grain entering those terminals.
“When you pull the plug on mandatory inward inspection you pull the plug on the whole accounting system,” said Ahn Phan, the CGC’s chief statistician.
Now grain companies are compelled under the grain act to provide the CGC will the data as a condition of licensing, he added.
The CGC is still not publishing all the data it used to, but is working towards that goal and more. Terminal Receipts and Shipments by sector and historical statistics for week ago and year ago will be coming, he said.
“At the end the end of the day changes to the Grain Stats Weekly should be improvements,” Phan said. “The changes will be more in the format, related to the need to include more information and facilitate automation.”
The old publication was restricted to the so-called major grains. Phan said the new publication will include almost all crops and provide historical data going back more than a year.
Changes to how eastern terminals are classified render historical comparisons between this and last crop year invalid, said CGC statistician Kevin Morgan. Previously eastern “transfer terminals” reported stocks separately, but as of Aug. 1 there are only “terminals.” And eastern terminals are grouped together in such categories as “Bay and Lake Ports and “St. Lawrence Ports.”
“You’d be comparing apples to oranges,” he said.
Given the changes in how the data are gathered, this fall the CGC will seek input from the industry on changes it would like to see to the publication.
The data being released now is preliminary pending user feedback, which might sway the decision makers, Phan said. “What we’re doing is based on current marching orders, but once we get all the input that could change.”
Timely and accurate grain statistics are critical to understanding supply and demand and determining grain prices, say market analysts.
“It’s important to get the data as soon as possible,” said Mike Jubinville, president of ProFarmer Canada.
The speed that grain moves through the system affects the basis (difference between cash and futures prices) and the spread (the difference between nearby and further out futures prices), said John De Pape, president of Farmers Advanced Risk Management Company.
Both Jubinville and De Pape want the grain commission or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to emulate the U.S. Department of Agriculture and collect and publish grain sales soon after they’re made. Grain companies in the U.S. are required to report sales. The information is viewed as critical to a well-functioning open market.
De Pape said he has raised the issue with the grain commission and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, but to no avail.
“I know the big grain companies do not support this,” De Pape said.
The grain commission is working on a plan to report loaded grain ships providing information that used to come from Canada Ports Clearance, Phan said.
The Western Grains Elevator Association, which represents the major grain companies in Western Canada, supports market transparency, said the association’s executive director Wade Sobkowich.
“We are definitely willing participants in the providing of data for transparency,” he said.
“We came up with an agreed-upon set of data the companies would provide to the Canadian Grain Commission from the terminals to replace what the CGC would have captured on their own doing the unloads.”