Ritz sees CWB gaining grain handling deals

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Monday he is confident the Canadian Wheat Board will strike agreements with grain handlers to allow it to start buying farmers’ 2012 crops for future delivery.

A new federal law will strip the board’s marketing monopoly for Prairie wheat and barley as of Aug. 1. The Wheat Board plans to continue buying and selling upcoming crops, even though farmers will be no longer be required to market their grain through the CWB.

However, the board lacks grain elevators or port terminals of its own to take delivery of grain and move it to domestic and export customers, and will have to reach agreement with grain handlers such as Viterra, Richardson International and Cargill.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Wild Oats Grainworld conference, Ritz said he is "absolutely" confident the CWB and handlers will reach deals without government regulating access to facilities.

"I’ve never really considered regulation to make sure someone is forced to handle a product that’s not (on) a commercial basis. I know the skills of the Canadian Wheat Board, I know their ability to draw grain.

"There will be product to move and everybody works on a volume basis — there will be agreements."

The Grain Growers of Canada last week urged the CWB and grain handlers to quickly come to agreements so farmers have more options for pricing their 2012 crops.

Prior to the government taking control of the CWB from farmers in December, the CWB’s former chairman said it needed government-regulated access to facilities ensure fair treatment.

The board’s CEO, Ian White, has said the CWB expected to start buying farmers’ 2012 crops for future delivery in late February, but it first needed to sign deals with grain handling firms.

Ritz said White told him last week that the board has had "great discussions" with grain handlers and expected announcements soon.

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