A new organization formed to enhance the domestic and international competitiveness of Canadian cereal grains will focus on collaboration to create value for the entire sector, says the inaugural chair of Cereals Canada.
“We as an industry need to have a unified and cohesive voice to represent the entire industry and we haven’t had that in the past,” said Greg Porozni, a Willingdon grain grower who has two decades’ worth of experience with various boards and commissions.
“I’m talking from grower right along the entire value chain.”
He said his past experience on the Canola Council of Canada showed him how industry-wide co-operation creates a win-win situation for everyone.
Currently, the group includes representatives from the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Grain Farmers of Ontario, Cargill, Sygenta Crop Sciences, Weyburn Inland Terminal and Viterra, among others.
The group’s creation isn’t connected to the end of the wheat board’s monopoly, but the simple need for industry to work together, said Porozni.
“The bottom line is that we’re all growers. We all grow barley, oats and everything. We have to work together.” – Greg Porozni, Chair of Cereals Canada.
The goal is to bring other grain organizations on board.
“We’re working on that, but at the same time we need to respect that barley has its own council and we need to collaborate with them wherever possible,” said Porozni, a fourth-generation farmer.
“The bottom line is that we’re all growers. We all grow barley, oats and everything. We have to work together.”
Cereals Canada’s newly elected 12-member board includes growers, life sciences representatives, seed companies, end-users and exporters.
The organization is still in the planning stages, but he said it’s hoped to have a president in place by the end of January and to open its Winnipeg headquarters in a few months. Strategic planning sessions will be held at the end of March, with the focus on making smart use of limited grower dollars, creating value for all participants in the industry and advancing market development and research, he said
“We’ve got to think big picture and we’re going to be investing in specific areas,” said Porozni.
“Market development would be one area that we would start on and work our way from there. It’s a competitive world out there and there are countries throughout the world that are doing the same thing we’re doing. We have to be a leader throughout the world to promote wheat throughout the value chain.”
Working co-operatively will be key.
“Eventually, I think we will have collaboration in wheat breeding, for example, with producer, private and public,” he said.
Porozni said he expects breeding will not focus on one specific variety or class, but will be similar to the Australian model, where the entire industry decides whether it wants to fund the development of a new variety.
“You have to remember that it costs about $80 million to $100 million to take a variety from beginning to end,” he said. “We as growers cannot afford to launch just one specific variety. It’s too high risk.”
Cereals Canada will be co-operating with the Canadian Grains Commission and the Canadian International Grains Institute. The co-ordinated efforts will help the Canadian wheat market compete globally, he said.
“Whenever we do a trade mission, it has to be in conjunction with all the industry players, to make sure we’re all on the same page. If there is an opportunity, we need to be on it, be nimble and get it.”
Canada’s wheat industry needs to define itself and meet the customers’ needs, he said.
“We cannot be just a bulk exporter, in my opinion.”
The president of the Grain Growers of Canada said the new organization won’t duplicate the work done by his group.
Gary Stanford said his organization will focus on trade deals and policy issues while Cereals Canada will focus on research, variety development and marketing.
“They’ll do a little bit of policy work, but not a lot,” said Stanford.
Some individuals and commissions will be members of both groups, and Stanford said both may send members on the same trade missions.
Cereals Canada could speak about the attributes of Canadian grain, while his organization would work with agriculture and trade ministers to discuss trade policy.
“We’ll work together on certain issues, but we’ll be handling different things,” said Stanford.