Of all the issues concerning the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), its role in outward inspection is one of the most contentious.
The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat), Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan (APAS) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) say in their submissions on the grain act and CGC that retaining mandatory CGC outward inspection is key to protecting the quality of Canadian grain.
In its brief the NFU likens the CGC’s outward inspection to a keystone in an arch.
“Without mandatory final inspection of export shipments by CGC inspectors, Canada’s export grain quality will be eroded by creeping self-interest, then will tumble altogether… ” the submission says.
Before the Harper government wound down the Canadian Wheat Board in 2012, the CGC would grade wheat in 2,000-tonne increments and have to meet a specific grade, as well as having to meet the composite grade represent- ing the entire cargo.
But since 2012 composite grading is optional. Few buyers use it because it costs more.
“While this change was not publicized at the time, there were many customer complaints following this change as it did result in greater inconsistency across cargoes,” consultant Ward Weisensel writes in a paper for Sask Wheat, included in its submission. “This was particularly the case for buyers who were serving multiple customers where vessel unload- ing occurred at several different ports.”
The United States inspection service still offers a grading option similar to what Canada used to, which is a problem because it’s also a major competitor.
“(W)e need to be cognizant of what our competitors are doing so that our system does not put Canada at a competitive disadvantage,” he wrote.
Member-companies of the WGEA don’t want that either, its executive director Wade Sobkowich said in an interview April 28.
“We’re in the business of keeping customers,” he said. “If we don’t keep customers we’re screwing ourselves.”
With CGC certification and oversight of third-party, private grain inspectors, the CGC will ensure Canada’s grain quality assurance system remains, he said.
Some Canadian grain companies employ private inspectors to grade grain leaving country elevators and export terminals to ensure it meets customer specifications.
“The third party works with the company through the system and it is helpful, whereas the CGC is at one point in the system (exports) and it just reports the news: pass or fail,” Sobkowich said. That’s not helpful.”
The NFU’s Cam Goff doesn’t have much sympathy for the companies, noting they asked that mandatory CGC inspection be eliminated a number of years ago.
When the CGC was inspecting grain coming into and going out of export terminals there was more consistency, he said.
The NFU wants mandatory CGC inward inspection restored, its submission says.