New grain prices website has potential says expert

The January launch of a new website run by the Alberta Wheat Commission designed to provide better grain pricing

The January launch of a new website run by the Alberta Wheat Commission designed to provide better grain pricing information has the potential to be useful to farmers, according to Neil Blue, with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

The new website, part of the Crop Data and Price Reporting project, was announced at the end of January by federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. The AgriRisk Initiatives program kicked in $742,725 to the program, which is being developed by the Wheat Commission and FARMCo, a grain marketing consulting firm.

The website provides a breakdown of grain prices, both by the tonne and by the bushel, for different zones of the nation. For example, a bushel of canola sells for $9.89 in northern Alberta as of press deadline on Feb. 23. Manitoba’s canola sells for the highest rate at $10.17.

“Increasing access to grain price quotes is good in that some buyers do not readily provide price quotes for all crops,” Blue explained. “(The prices) will provide a potentially valuable reference for producers to compare with price quotes obtained by individual buyers.”

While Blue noted that the Canadian Wheat Board previously provided quotes in the past for the crops it marketed, this is the first he’s been aware of an online resource that provides an aggregate price for farmers to use as a reference.

The Wheat Commission agrees, which is why it involved itself in the project, according to its chairman, Kent Erickson.

“This project will close a major information gap related to cash grain prices and market data,” he said. “This information will significantly improve farmers’ access to market-related data to capture the best marketing opportunities available to them.”

Blue said he agrees with Erickson to some extent, but the true value of the website and its information will be determined by its users, the farmers and the marketers.

“It certainly has the potential to provide better price visibility and useful information on crop movement,” Blue noted, but added, “Crop marketers will still need to contact individual buyers and cash grain brokers to determine actual bids relevant to their product and location.”

The regionalization of the data, at present, means the markets are broken into big windows. For example, only one price is provided for all of Manitoba, meaning that prices in some areas might be right on the dot, and others not so much.

The website, available at www.pdqinto.ca, is asking people to provide feedback to better improve the information on the site.

“The development and launch of the full website and software is expected to take an additional three to four months,” the commission notes on the website.

At present, the only information available is grain prices, but the site is expected to be better expanded for the 2015/16 crop season.