by: Cam Dahl and Dean Dias
The Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) and Cereals Canada are moving forward towards an amalgamated organization. This is a positive development. If one were to start with a blank page in designing how the cereal grains sector were to be represented, we would not have started with two separate organizations. But that is not how the sector has developed. Moving operations into a single organization under the direction of a single Board of Directors is part of the ongoing evolution of the industry.
For the last 40 plus years, Cigi has built a reputation internationally for technical and functional quality analysis and support. Cigi has effectively helped to develop markets for Canadian wheat through training and information sessions with customers, held both in Canada and in-market. In addition to these roles, the international brand and relationships that Cigi has established will all continue under the amalgamated organization.
Cereals Canada grew out of the change in marketing for Canadian wheat and barley. The organization is designed to be the national umbrella for the cereal grain value chain, addressing policy issues both in Canada and internationally, tackling an increasing number of market access issues and providing a bridge between customers of Canadian cereal grains and Canadian farmers, exporters and research community. These functions are complementary to the work that Cigi has been carrying out.
Collaboration between Cereals Canada and Cigi started long before discussions began on unifying the two organizations. The cohesive Canadian voice provided through the annual New Crop Missions is one example of the benefits of collaboration. Working together has also benefited the industry as a whole, which is one of the key advantages of amalgamation. The coordinated approach to outreach from Canada that has resulted from our informal collaboration will be cemented in place under a single roof.
Throughout the discussions on amalgamation, which have taken place over the past three years, the Directors of the two organizations have been guided by a key question “what is in the best interest of the Canadian industry going forward.” This has not been about protecting the turf of either of the two organizations but looking for a renewed governance model that will more efficiently and effectively deliver the services the industry needs around market development, policy, market access, research and communication. A coordinated value chain approach is becoming more and more important as the world enters into a new age of protectionism and trade barriers. Canadian farmers, exporters and processors also face growing competition from emerging exporters, like the rising competition from Black Sea countries.
While finances have not been the primary driver of change, the amalgamation also will see cost savings. For example, all of the Members of Cigi are also Members of Cereals Canada and moving to a single Board of Directors will reduce travel and meeting costs. Having leadership, administration and overhead under one organization will also result in cost savings.
Early on in the process, the membership of Cigi and Cereals Canada agreed to a set of principles that would guide the development of the new governance model. These are:
- The amalgamated organization will be national in scope;
- The full value chain will be represented within the organization;
- Representation at the Board table will have a linkage to financial contribution to the organization;
- All Members, regardless of representation on the Board of Directors, will have the opportunity to participate in the work of the organization through standing committees and ad hoc working groups; and
- The organization will strive for consensus decision making at both the Board and Member level.
This past June the Boards of both Cigi and Cereals Canada signed a formal letter of intent that charged us with the task of developing an amalgamation agreement, including bylaws, based on these key principles. This goal has been accomplished. Under the direction of both Boards a governance model and bylaws have been developed and are being taken to Members for review. Members are scheduled to vote on this package this spring with June as our target for integration.
This is an exciting time for Canadian agriculture. We are seeing new challenges, like the rapid growth of competitors around the Black Sea and the increase of non-tariff trade barriers. We are seeing new opportunities with millers in markets like Nigeria and Bangladesh adding Canadian wheat to their blends to create cost effective products. New plant breeding technologies will allow us to respond more rapidly to the changing needs of our customers both in Canada and offshore. We are seeing more demands for demonstration of the sustainability of our production practices; a task at which Canadian farmers can excel. World markets are changing, and the value chain organizations designed to represent the industry must continually evolve to adapt to these changes. We are excited by the opportunity that this evolution presents and know that a new and more effective organization is emerging, one that is built on the foundation of success established by both Cigi and Cereals Canada.