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Growers need to adjust to demand from millers, processors

The Ontario wheat industry is evolving rapidly


November 12, 2007
By Crosby Devitt

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16aThe Ontario wheat industry is evolving rapidly, making it an exciting time
to grow wheat in this province. Just 10 years ago, the Ontario winter wheat
crop was almost 100 percent soft white winter. The composition of the current
wheat crop is primarily soft red winter with hard red winter, soft white winter
and hard red spring wheat combined accounting for about 40 percent of the crop.

The ability to grow different classes of wheat in Ontario provides an advantage
to producers, with each class subject to its own supply and demand factors.

Domestic demand for soft white and red wheat for cereal and pastry applications
has been fairly steady at the current 700,000 tonnes per year. Ontario production
is well above this number, allowing Ontario to access opportunities in the US,
India, North Africa and the Middle East for soft white and red winter wheat.
Overall world production is expected to be down this year as are projected ending
world stocks. With current market conditions, and the success of the winter
Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board (OWPMB) trade mission to the Middle
East and Africa, Ontario is well positioned for 2006/07 soft white and red winter
wheat sales.

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The requirements of international buyers are often quite different than those
of Ontario millers. It is important to listen to these customers and be able
to demonstrate the value of Ontario wheat for their products. As Ontario wheat
producers continue to increase production numbers, the key to price stability
and improved returns will be the development of varieties with disease resistance
and quality profiles that fulfill international requirements.

When looking at the domestic market, Canada's demand for hard wheat for baking
bread products is currently met by both Ontario hard red spring and winter production,
and hard wheat from western Canada and the US. This market pays a premium for
quality hard wheat with high protein. It is often difficult for Ontario hard
red wheat to reach target protein levels to maximize value. This is a huge potential
area for Ontario wheat in the future if protein content and quality can be increased
while maintaining excellent yield potential.

Ontario wheat research is targetting genetics and disease control to meet the
demands of both the foreign and domestic markets. Current fusarium research
is focussed on reducing the incidence of the disease in the field to ensure
the widest marketability of the crop, while research to update nitrogen requirements
will maximize quality.

Looking into the future, there are many opportunities for Ontario's wheat industry
to grow. Success will depend upon its ability to capture new market opportunities
and meet the quality demands of new clients.

*Crosby Devitt is manager of research and innovation with the Ontario
Wheat Producers' Marketing Board.