CWB was the great barrier to competition

For a moment this week I was pretty sure I had somehow slipped back a year, or two in time.

I was browsing a farm newspaper website and there was an article about Canadian durum producers lamenting the lack of competition for their grain in Canada, and how prices south of the border were often double those here.

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It sounded very much like the complaint often pointed toward the Canadian Wheat Board when it was the single desk seller for wheat, durum and export barley in this country.

The CWB was the great barrier to competition.

The CWB was the reason Canadian prices were often cited as lower than in the United States, because again there was no competition.

Now, more than a year out from the federal government ending the CWB's single-desk selling authority, durum producers seem to be exactly in the same place.

The Western Producer noted in an article "Larry Weber, an analyst with Weber Commodities, said the price for No. 1 CWAD 13 per cent durum was as high as $14.80 in Montana and North Dakota last week, which was $7 per bu. higher than the Canadian price."

Now that is a huge discrepancy to be sure, and in a post CWB world there is no hope for a final payment down the road based on pooling the sale of durum over the crop year to bring the two prices more into line.

Of course there are added costs for producers too eyeing the US market, particularly trucking fees for added highway miles depending on location, although they will not equal a $7 bulge.

So there is a question to be asked here, why has the end of the CWB single desk power not translated into the competition the federal government and open-market proponents long predicted?

It is not to suggest here that the CWB was the wonderful and great entity its staunchest supporters may have suggested.

And, it is not to suggest a government which believes in a policy change should not proceed with it.

But if the change is failing to produce what was expected for a product such as durum, then it has to be worrisome.

It might be reasoned the answer is a simple as not growing durum moving forward if local buyers won't pay for it.

That however, is short-sighted in terms of Prairie farmers trying to hold onto a diversified cropping mix, and away from mono-culture systems such as soybeans or corn are for many stateside.

Durum has long been a crop many in the southern area of the Canadian Prairies can grow well, and to lose that crop based on low prices in this country at a time miles away demand is strong in the US, just leaves a lot of questions demanding answers.

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