Cereals Canada update: New crop mission in Africa, the Gulf and Asia

Kenys Fairley, Mount Royal University Public Relations Student

In January 2024, Tara Sawyer participated in Cereal’s Canada’s New Crop Trade and Technical Missions, the same month, the Acme, Alberta farmer was voted as the first Alberta Grains board chair, a whirlwind start to say the least.

“These missions are so important, and it’s even more crucial to have the farmer on it. I wish every farmer got an opportunity to go on one,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer’s experience was unique in that she and the technical team members from Cereal’s Canada had the opportunity to participate in small group meetings throughout the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Nigeria, Singapore and Malaysia.

She expressed how valuable these meetings were to have deeper discussions to address concerns and opportunities, as well as alleviate any misconceptions international buyers might have about Canadian wheat production.

A topic Sawyer heard more than once when traveling through the region was related to the moisture content in Western Canadian wheat. Often buyers question why Canadian crops are taken off with moisture levels that are higher than they are used to in their own countries, and how spoilage is avoided.

Sawyer was able to explain the process used on her farm, through grain drying and in-bin temperature monitoring, to ensure they maintain the safe, nutritious and high quality of their wheat and other grains, allowing crops to travel from –40C in on-farm storage bins, to +40C at the end market.

“While our wheat may come off the field at higher moisture levels than other countries are accustomed to, our leading- edge technology allows us to dry it down to the appropriate temperatures for storage, and I am so pleased to be able to explain those processes directly to our buyers” added Sawyer.

Sawyer emphasized that customers throughout her travels consistently recognized Canadian wheat as the ‘gold standard’, often being praised for its premium quality and consistency. She observed that while buyers in different regions had diverse preferences, they all valued the reliability and excellence associated with Canadian wheat.

Sawyer recognized that Canadian wheat quality is not just a sustainability story, but also a direct result of the advanced farming practices used by her and her fellow farmers. Because of the significant research investments made into new and improved varieties, crops are better yielding and increasingly more resistant to drought, pests and other environmental conditions.

“Developing better varieties using sound science has helped us deliver a more sustainable and consistently high-quality product.”

The mission allowed Sawyer to explain how Alberta farmers test and sample soil, use breeding programs and consider their environmental footprint by using less to grow more. She touched on how each field has its own recipe, no-till practices and how and why Albertan growers use the four R’s of nutrient stewardship (right source, right rate, right time, and right place.) She and her cohort answered questions as to why farmers change the varieties they grow while considering factors such as what will yield more and to a higher grade.

Sawyer said she has a deep appreciation for Cereals Canada and their team, as she was able to witness firsthand their efforts toward “promoting our Canadian wheat and helping tour key buyers use it effectively and correctly.”

She also acknowledged the importance of building and maintaining relationships in our key export markets.

“The relationship-building piece is very important to them and often more important than just the business-building piece. Building those relationships and maintaining them is unquestionably the biggest and most important piece.”