Customer complaints about lower gluten strength wheat in the Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) class started making headlines in 2013.
But industry officials including Earl Geddes, then the executive director of the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), and then Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson, said the problem could be fixed.
Chinese officials complained to Cigi in early 2013 about poor gluten CWRS wheat and threatened “we’re going to have to use DNS” (Dark Northern Spring wheat) from the United States,” Geddes said.
“I don’t think there’s an irreparable problem, but I think we’re hearing some concerns expressed that we should take seriously,” Hermanson told reporters on the sideline of the Canada Grains Council’s annual meeting in Winnipeg April 2, 2013.
Hermanson announced a CGC-led wheat class review Dec. 11, 2014 while speaking to the Manitoba Seed Growers Association’s annual meeting in Brandon.
“We want to consult and ask the right questions and get the right answers and make the right decisions,” he said in an interview later.
Feb. 20, 2015 the CGC released a discussion paper proposing tighter end-use quality standards for CWRS and Canada Prairie Spring (CPS) wheats and a new class later named Canada Northern Hard Red. Industry participants were invited to submit their responses in writing.
The public record shows the industry was consulted. For example, the CGC discussed its proposals with wheat breeders privately in late February 2015 on the sideline of the Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale’s annual meeting in Banff, and later publicly with the committee.
“Our first key element of course is we want to improve and protect the quality and consistency of CWRS,” Dave Hatcher, the CGC’s program manager for wheat enzymes and Asian products, told the PRCWRT Feb. 26, 2015.
“One, we listened and heard very clearly from producers saying they wanted other opportunities. Two, we heard from marketers saying, ‘well, yes we want new opportunities (to grow and market high-yielding American wheats) as well and a new milling class will provide for that. So, I know it’s kind of hard to believe, but the government does listen and this is exactly what we are proposing.”
On May 8, 2015 the CGC said in a release: “Stakeholders expressed strong support in their responses to the Canadian Grain Commission proposal to protect the quality, consistency and end-use performance of the Canada Western Red Spring and Canada Prairie Spring Red wheat classes.
In September 2015 Cereals Canada, which supported dealing with the gluten complaints, released a summary of a report it and the Cigi hired LMC International to do on Canadian wheat.
“In order to preserve these (high-value) markets (for CWRS and Canada Western Amber durum), the first priority for Canadian wheat must be to maintain its quality and reputation,” the report said.
The CGC announced Jan. 15, 2016 it was moving ahead with the proposed class changes.
“These steps reflect feedback from consultations in early 2015, followed by discussions with stakeholders on a proposed plan, as well as a scan of international markets conducted by Cereals Canada and the Canadian International Grains Institute,” the CGC said in a statement. “The Canadian Grain Commission carefully considered all feedback from breeders, variety owners, grain companies, producer groups, marketing organizations and end-use customers.”