In recent weeks, the DTN 360 Poll asked the question: Should Canada's government require exporters to report grain trade data, such as reported weekly in the United States? While this is an informal, unscientific poll, 50% of respondents answered yes, that marketing decisions are made in the dark without knowing the status of our country's sales, by commodity; 22% also answered yes, that a steady flow of trade data could help stabilize markets and reduce market fluctuations. Seven percent of respondents suggested that sales data should be viewed as being owned by the companies generating the sales, and 14% indicated that we're in a stronger position if the world knows less of our trade position. A further 7% responded to "Other".
In total, 72% of respondents indicated that more information was better than less. Meanwhile, Western Canadian producers are currently experiencing a taste of industry changes which are affecting the flow of statistics that has been taken for granted in the past.
Since Aug. 1, the Canadian Grain Commission has continued to report an abbreviated version of its weekly Grain Statistics Weekly as it struggles to adapt to new realities in the industry. In a move to "streamline" operations at the Canadian Grain Commission through announcements made in the Federal Government's Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 and corresponding changes to the Canada Grain Act, a number of changes to the Grain Commission's Services have been implemented as of Aug. 1.
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One of these changes to services, all of which are listed on the CGC website, includes the loss of oversight of inward inspections and the collection of weighing data at terminal elevators. From a statistics perspective, this has historically been a key role for the CGC where statistics relating to country elevator receipts could be verified through data accumulated at terminal elevators which allowed for a supply of timely and reliable handling data.
The results of the changes made are a system that faces a growing reliance on data that is supplied directly by the terminal elevators. While the CGC workers are putting on a brave face and expressing confidence in their ability to source accurate data from the terminal operators, the most recent Week 5 report which provides data to September 8 continues to indicate that the publication is not complete and that "we are working to provide Terminal Receipts and Shipments by sector and historical statistics for week ago and year ago in the coming weeks."
In a recent interview with The Western Producer, CGC statistician Kevin Morgan states "Grain Statistics Weekly, because of how we were doing our reports previously, has had to be pretty much blown up and reconceived." The article also suggests that some of the data in the revised Grain Statistics Weekly may not be able to be compared with historical data.
While change is inevitable in this industry, ongoing efforts to trim government budgets continue to slowly erode what was once readily available information. The end of the Canadian Ports Clearance Association has already eliminated the vessel lineup reports at the port, which was once viewed as valuable information from a marketer's perspective. More recently, Statistics Canada floated the notion of ending their September survey-based analysis of crop yields in favor of analysis with the use of satellite data, a move which may possibly ignore the smaller crops or increase the variability of results.
Please see DTN's latest 360 Poll to share your thoughts every week on a variety of issues, which is found on the DTN Home Page. We thank you for your participation.
Cliff Jamieson can be reached at email@example.com
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