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Canadian Wheat and Overview of the Canadian Wheat Quality Assurance System


Canadian Wheat
By : J. E. Dexter, K.R. Preston and N. Woodbeck

The vast majority of Canadian wheat is produced in western Canada (Manitoba and provinces to the west). A large proportion of western Canadian wheat is exported, and it is marketed in a highly regulated fashion. As soon as western Canadian wheat is delivered by producers to a grain elevator the wheat becomes the property of the Canadian Wheat Board, which is a single desk seller for western Canadian wheat. Approval for registration into any of the eight classes of wheat in western Canada is based on merit according to disease resistance, agronomic performance and processing quality.

Wheat is also produced in eastern Canada, primarily in southern Ontario. Eastern Canadian wheat is also registered on the basis of merit, although processing quality models are not quite as strictly defined as for western Canada. There is no single desk seller for eastern Canadian wheat, which is marketed by private trading companies and the Ontario Wheat Producers Marketing Board. Approximately 50% of eastern Canadian wheat disappears domestically.
The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), a Department within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), oversees quality assurance of Canadian grains, oilseeds, pulses and special crops. The CGC is headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba and has regional offices across Canada. The CGC derives its authority from the Canada Grain Act, an Act of Parliament, enacted in 1912, and revised most recently in 1995. Subject to the Canada Grain Act, the CGC "shall, in the interests of grain producers, establish and maintain standards of quality for Canadian grain and regulate grain handling in Canada, to ensure a dependable commodity for domestic and export markets." The CGC quality assurance system is in effect from the time producers deliver their crops until they are received by the customer. In fulfilling its role, the CGC:
• acts as an unbiased regulator in the best interest of all elements of the Canadian grain industry;
• licenses grain elevators, monitors their operations, and ensures that facilities are in good operating condition and free of infestation;
• sets grade standards in consultation with the industry;
• supervises weighing of incoming grain at terminal elevators and assigns a grade;
• supervises weighing during loading for export, and continuously takes samples and grades the grain during loading;
• issues certificates that report the weight and grade of export shipments;
• conducts scientific research in support of quality assurance and grain marketing;
• monitors the quality and safety of Canadian wheat;
• provides technical assistance to marketers and customers, and investigates if there is a disagreement concerning quantity or quality of a shipment;
• participates in quality testing of wheat breeding lines and supports wheat marketing programmes.

More information on the duties and responsibilities of the CGC can be found on the CGC website at www.grainscanada.gc.ca

Overview of the Canadian Wheat Quality Assurance System
An effective grain quality assurance system considers the best interests of all segments of the industry, and must be flexible and responsive to evolving industry needs. The Canadian wheat quality assurance system overseen by the CGC is modelled on that basis, but there are fundamental principles that remain constant. They include reliable supply, safety, cleanliness, uniformity and consistency, and superior processing performance.

Canada supplies high quality wheat reliably year-to-year because on average over 20 million metric tonnes (mio t) are produced annually in the vast fertile plains of western Canada, and Canadian consumption of milling wheat is only about 2.5 mio t. Dockage must be removed from Canadian wheat prior to export according to standards set by the CGC. Dockage-free wheat is less dusty, and requires less intense cleaning in preparation for milling. Removing dockage also improves wheat storage stability, and may alleviate import restrictions associated with noxious weed seeds. Removal of genetically modified impurities, such as soybeans, canola and maize, is becoming increasingly important to millers as more customers require assurance that milled products meet strict GMO content limits.

Insect infestation is rarely a problem with Canadian wheat because of the harsh winter weather conditions in western Canada. The main form of storage in western Canada is on-farm in steel silos. CGC entomologists and grain sanitation officers work closely with the industry to minimize infestation in grain handling facilities, and to ensure that problems are dealt with promptly and effectively.

Consumers are demanding assurances of food safety more and more, and in response, wheat importers are increasingly requesting safety statements of assurance or safety certification for shipments. CGC research and monitoring programmes provide in-depth knowledge of what toxic contaminants and constituents could possibly be in Canadian grain (Nowicki, 1993). Depending on the request of each customer, the CGC will issue a letter of assurance based on historical data, or carry out analyses to certify levels of pesticide residues, mycotoxins, toxic trace elements, radio nuclides and noxious weed seeds. CGC monitoring programmes have shown that Canadian grain is not only safe, but meets the strictest Canadian and international tolerances for all potential toxic contaminants.

Millers want uniformity and consistency in order to meet flour or semolina specifications demanded by their customers. End-users want uniformity and consistency to make products acceptable to consumers without continually changing the processing conditions. Consistent quality from shipment to shipment of the same class and grade of wheat, for which Canadian wheat is well known, is an obvious asset. Of almost equal importance is uniformity within and between holds of a given shipment.

The goal of the Canadian wheat quality assurance system is to allow customers to select a class and grade of Canadian wheat that best meets their requirements, with confidence that it will perform as expected. To accomplish this goal for Canadian wheat:
• quality models for western Canadian wheat classes are carefully and clearly defined;
• western Canadian wheat classes must be visually distinct from each other to allow efficient segregation;
• CGC wheat grade standards have a scientific basis;
• the CGC protocol during loading of wheat export cargoes is designed to maintain uniformity and consistency and to assure processing quality;
• post-shipment monitoring of end-use quality is conducted by the CGC;
• an ongoing dialogue is maintained with users of Canadian wheat.

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