Diversifying the market

FROM THE CEO'S DESK

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

IT’S NO SECRET that Ontario is not the lowest cost producer of grain; however, we do produce consistent, high quality grain and we are in close proximity to a large market. There is value in that.

Ontario grain farmers have the unique ability to provide tailor-grown crops that are desired by processors looking to fill a specific end user need. Niche markets that pay a premium are the key to our future growth and Grain Farmers of Ontario is committed to developing and diversifying these markets. We need to continue to grow these niche markets.

We accomplish this in two ways: by directly funding innovation within Ontario’s processing and manufacturing sector through programs such as the Grains Innovation Fund; and by participating in provincial and national organizations that bring together the entire grain value chain to fund research and market development initiatives.

Within the past year, we have seen the establishment of two new national organizations — Cereals Canada and Soy Canada — in which we have taken a leadership role. Both organizations are made up of a combination of producer organizations, seed companies, exporters, and processors.

This collective approach allows us to ensure that we are targeting our research and marketing efforts in the right areas. Anticipating and understanding the needs of the global marketplace will ensure our competitiveness within international markets. A large part of that surrounds consumer education, advocacy, and government policy development in the realm of GM and organic crops. While new crop technology is widely accepted in some areas, there is a lot of misinformation which is prohibiting its acceptance in several key export markets, such as Europe. That is why it is important to have one voice to provide one clear message about the safety and reliability of Canadian cereals and soybeans.

The current trend towards sustainability is also being  addressed on a national level. Grain Farmers of Ontario does not believe sustainability is a fad. There is a growing demand from consumers in both domestic and export markets to learn more about where their food comes from, how it was produced, and what sort of labour and environmental conditions existed during its production. In order to break into new markets and maintain many of our existing markets, we are going to need to prove sustainability along every step in the value chain. The development of certification programs that are internationally accepted is already underway.

As an industry, we need to be willing and able to adapt to change. We cannot be complacent. We know that we will be facing increased competition from developing countries 10 to 20 years from now. And there are numerous examples of countries abruptly closing their doors to imports from certain sectors or disrupting trade completely based on the political climate. Diversifying now will put us in the right position to weather any of these challenges. •

About Barry Senft 61 Articles
CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario