Shaking up Western Canada’s wheat class system

A lot of familiar Canada Western Red Spring wheats will move to another class to 
maintain the quality and enhance the consistency of Canada’s top milling wheat

Shaking up Western Canada’s wheat class system

Complaints from customers over low gluten strength is prompting changes to Canada’s premium milling wheat class.

Some famous old wheats, including Katepwa and Neepawa, along with some newer ones, are being pulled from Western Canada’s top Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat class Aug. 1, 2017. (see list at bottom of article)

It’s part of the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) plan to “maintain the quality and enhance the consistency of Canadian grain,” Daryl Beswitherick, the CGC’s program manager for quality assurance standards, said in an interview Aug. 6.

Canada’s quality “brand” is based on providing wheat with consistent gluten strength, which millers and bakers value in their highly mechanized processes.

The CGC says a combination of factors has undermined that consistency, including the rise in production of Lillian, Harvest and Unity — wheats on the lower end of acceptable gluten strength — less mixing in the handling system due to consolidation, and growing and harvest conditions. As a result 25 CWRS wheats and four Canada Prairie Spring Reds (CPSR) will move to other classes in two years, including Lillian, Harvest, Unity, Katepwa, Neepawa and Kane.

New quality standards have been set for both classes and new check varieties selected. Ironically, both Neepawa and Katepwa were CWRS checks in the past.

“We raised the bottom of the standard (on gluten strength) a little bit,” Beswitherick said.

Varieties being removed from the CWRS and CPSR classes will be assigned to others. More wheats could be moved. An undisclosed number is being tested over the next two years to see if they meet the new standards.

“We’re not releasing how many or variety name at this point because we don’t want to do any market harm to those particular varieties,” Beswitherick said.

In the meantime, the CGC is studying whether a new western Canadian wheat class should be established. Officials have suggested it could include some of the weaker gluten strength wheats, as well as certain Dark Northern Spring wheats from the United States popular with farmers because they are higher yielding.

“We want to do it sooner than later — likely in 2015,” Beswitherick said. “The plan would be to have something finalized by the end of 2015 and the announcements out for Aug. 1, 2016.”

The CGC set up a new interim wheat class — Canada Western Interim Wheat — effective Aug. 1, to facilitate the marketing of three U.S. wheats — Faller, Prosper and Elgin ND — granted three-year interim registrations earlier this year.

The CGC consulted with the grain industry on the changes. In a summary of the feedback, the CGC said almost all respondents strongly supported protecting the quality, consistency and end-use performance of the CWRS and CPSR classes. Respondents also urged caution before establishing a new wheat class.

“Before making a permanent decision on a new wheat class, stakeholders have requested more information on potential market demand, farm gate value, and grade structure,” the CGC summary says.

The National Farmers Union opposes a new class, arguing accommodating American wheats will undermine Canadian wheat quality and distinctiveness resulting in reduced sales and lower farmer returns.

That shouldn’t happen so long as farmers and grain companies continue to deliver wheats to the appropriate class, Beswitherick said.

“The Canadian Grain Commission monitors all Canadian grain shipments for variety consistency,” he said.

“The (variety) declaration process needs to be in place and people need to follow that and it should go OK.”

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) supports a new wheat class. The WCWGA also prefers wheat be purchased based on objectively measured specifications but said tests that can test gluten strength at the point of delivery are not yet available.

“So segregating value on the basis of variety is the only feasible alternative.”

The class system supports quality control, while making grain handling more efficient by allowing varieties in the same class to be commingled, CGC officials have said. Buyers are also free to segregate wheats by specification and/or variety — something companies supplying British baker Warburtons have done for years.

Wheats being removed from CWRS, CPSR classes

Following grain industry consultations the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) determined that the following varieties don’t meet revised quality parameters for the Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) wheat classes. The CGC will designate these varieties to another class as of August 1, 2017.


AC Abbey, AC Cora, AC Eatonia, AC Majestic, AC Michael, AC Minto, Alvena Alikat, CDC Makwa, CDC Osler, Columbus, Conway, Harvest, Kane, Katepwa, Leader, Lillian, McKenzie, Neepawa, Park, Pasqua, Pembina, Thatcher, Unity and 5603HR.


AC Formost, AC Taber, Conquer and Oslo

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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