CWB sets record straight on grain movement

Date: November 22, 2000

Winnipeg -- The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) today assured customers and farmers that the grain handling system is operating effectively. Earlier today, the Western Grain Elevator Association indicated the current transportation situation is damaging Canada's reputation in world grain markets.

"I suspect their strategy is to make it look like the system is in chaos in hopes the government will re-open the legislation and deem them the shipper," said Adrian Measner, vice-president of marketing. "Unfortunately for them, the system is generally working very well, so there is really little need to enter into a new series of debates over system reform and discuss old issues such as who should have a role in grain transportation and who should not."

Exports of all grains are currently 944 000 tonnes ahead of last year. As well, unloads at Vancouver are currently averaging 3333 cars per week, which is 501 more cars than the five-year average and at least 200 cars per week higher than any individual year in that five-year period. While it is true that 17 ships are currently waiting at the West Coast, this is a short term problem that should be solved in the next couple of weeks.

The WGEA comments were made in a news release they issued to media earlier today in which grain companies offered a solution to finalize details on transportation reform. The CWB has indicated it will respond to the WGEA proposal within a week. The WGEA also put forward some ideas during meetings held with the CWB on November 1 to 3.

"During our meetings we made significant progress and I believe some of the ideas that were raised during that time may be worth pursuing further," said Adrian Measner. "However, the proposals must meet farmers' needs and be within the operating guidelines defined in the government's new transportation legislation and the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the CWB and the federal government."

The legislation put forward by the federal government in May came after more than two years of negotiations. This legislation gave the CWB the ability to negotiate contracts directly with the railways to assure itself adequate rail capacity to move its entire volume of business and forward plan to meet customer demands.

While Measner has not reviewed the WGEA proposal in detail, he did say that at first glance it appears the proposal lacks any competitive features and would restrict the CWB's flexibility to respond to customers' needs. For instance, it does not appear that the WGEA proposal would meet farmers' needs or be consistent with the letter and spirit of the new transportation legislation.

"I guess the question is, would the companies accept this program if we offered it to them?" asked Measner. "If we guaranteed them cars for canola based on the past five years, I would expect they would say no because it doesn't give them the flexibility to meet sales demand."

The CWB is the world's largest farmer-controlled wheat and barley marketer. Headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, it is one of Canada's biggest exporters and the largest net earner of foreign exchange. Marketing Prairie-grown wheat and barley to over 70 countries around the world, the CWB returns all sales revenue, less the costs of marketing, to farmers in Western Canada.