Canada’s wheat quality assurance system has not been weakened by elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board’s sales monopoly or inward inspection at export terminals, say Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) officials.
“In light of a lot of the stories that have been going around I want to assure you it (ending inward inspection) hasn’t affected grain quality assurance in Canada,” chief CGC commissioner Elwin Hermanson told the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association annual meeting Dec. 11. “There have been a few suggestions that it may be deteriorating or slipping.”
In October, Derek Sliworsky of Prima Group, Agriway PTE Ltd., told the Cereals 2014 conference in Winnipeg, his firm experienced problems with the weight and inconsistent protein in Canadian wheat since the wheat board’s demise. Peas were also found in a container of Canadian wheat, he said.
“We don’t know what’s going on in the system here (in Canada),” Sliworsky was quoted by Reuters as saying.
He added while not all Canadian wheat shipments suffer from poor quality, “we don’t have these problems from other origins.”
Prima buys between 500,000 and one million tonnes of Canadian wheat a year to produce flour at its mills in Singapore, Sri Lanka and China.
Three years ago, some customers complained Canada Western Red Spring wheat had lower-than-normal gluten strength. The CGC determined the complaints were justified. It blames poor growing conditions and increased production of three wheat varieties with borderline acceptable gluten strength.
The CGC has investigated Prima’s complaint and found it to be unjustified, Rémi Gosselin, CGC’s manager of corporate information services said in an interview Dec. 10.
“The rigour of our processes related to the inspection and certification of the quality and quantity of grain as it’s loaded onto vessels has not changed,” he said. “We’re still doing the same inspections that we did years ago. That has not changed.”
New amendments to the Canada Grain Act, Bill C-48, are not a response to concerns raised over Canadian grain quality, CGC chief operating officer Gordon Miles told reporters Dec. 9.
“We have seen a reduction of complaints over the last couple of years,” he said. “Concerns about quality can be expressed by customers from time to time. There’s a difference between concerns and a formal complaint. Nothing has changed in terms of our standards…”
Effective Aug. 1, mandatory CGC inward grain inspection arriving at export terminals from country elevators ceased. However, terminals can hire private CGC certified inspectors to do them.
The change allowed the CGC to cut employees and save $20 million a year — a cost that would have otherwise been passed on to grain companies with the CGC’s move to cost recovery.
“It is very clear under the Canada Grain Act that… the Canadian Grain Commission… is responsible, and has been responsible, for the inspection of grain going onto export shipments for decades and we still have that full responsibility,” Hermanson told the seed growers. “I can assure you we have that excellent reputation.
“Some say we’re the best, others say we’re neck and neck with the Americans and it’s our goal to be No. 1.”
While complaints about Canadian gluten strength have declined, Canada must be vigilant, said David Hatcher, a research scientist with the CGC’s Grain Research Laboratory.
That’s especially true in Asia, where end-users are very technically savvy and account for 50 per cent Canada’s wheat exports.
“We have to meet their needs or quite frankly they will go elsewhere if we don’t,” Hatcher told the seed growers.
“Consistency is key to keeping these markets. They can deal with poor quality; they can’t deal with a lack of consistency.”
Mildew is the biggest degrading factor in Western Canada’s 2014 wheat crop, he said. Mildew can give flour and bread crusts a darker colour. Fortunately colour is better this year than last despite the mildew, Hatcher said.
Fusarium head blight is the second most prevalent degrading factor, but toxin levels are “extremely low… well below the codex acceptable standards…,” he said.