Marketing Freedom is an illusion

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It seems to me that “Marketing Freedom” is an illusion, an empty phrase, without farmers having marketing power.

When farmers had the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) as the single desk seller, it was a monopoly seller facing a multitude of world buyers. The CWB’s single desk position enabled it to capture sales at higher volumes and at higher prices. The gains flowed through to farmers, giving them a net revenue gain of $500 million or more over above that of an open market.

Now, under “Marketing Freedom”, some 50,000 or so Western grain farmers stand naked and alone facing three big grain buyers (Richardson, Glencore, and Cargill) who control some 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the market. The marketing power has now shifted from sellers to buyers with the sellers (farmers) receiving, comparably less revenue at each price level, than under the CWB.

The CWB also used its clout to advocate on behalf of farmers to ensure an orderly and rational grain movement from prairie elevators to export ports to ships.

Under “Marketing Freedom”, David Anderson tells us that ships are no longer loaded with a single grade and grain load. Instead, it sounds to me that it is now a hodgepodge of grades and grains per ship creating more labour and paperwork costs. In fact, without the CWB’s central direction, one would expect a more disorderly and disjointed catch-as-catch-can grain movement and marketing situation.

A symptom of this is a Western Producer report that ships are waiting up to 17 days for loads. Just think of what the delays and demurrage and customer dissatisfaction are costing those who are now the weakest in this food chain (the farmers).

Of course, we are told that, by a survey, there is much satisfaction expressed by the farming community with the new setup. Unfortunately, it turns out that this survey involved 125 agribusinesses (corporate farms) out of 1,500 agribusinesses. In other words, it was a survey of a minority of a minority.

One wonders what happened to the “satisfaction” of the other 50,000 farmers?

Perhaps, once the Harper government got away with arbitrarily sweeping away the CWB system, they don’t count anymore.

Welcome to “Marketing Freedom”.

Tom Shelstad - Swift Current

Organizations: Canadian Wheat Board, Glencore, Cargill Richardson

Geographic location: Swift Current

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Recent comments

  • hensel
    September 05, 2013 - 00:42

    Thank Harper, who was more philosophically opposed to any thing other than free trade, he threw farmers under the bus. Oddly, he is fine with the Canpotex cartel that artificially increases fertilizer prices!