Saskatoon, Sask. – The National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling for Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner to correct recent comments she made about the CWB’s single desk selling advantage. On Wednesday May 4th, Hoeppner told CBC, “I can tell you, in my riding, a lot of farmers, all they're asking for is the choice. They don't want to end the monopoly.”
“This statement could only be made by someone who clearly does not understand how the CWB works. The fact is, you can’t have both. You can’t have choice, and the CWB’s single desk. Hoeppner might as well have said, ‘We’ll still allow Monsanto to have the patent on its products, we’ll just allow several thousand other companies to produce and sell the same products on the generic market,’” continued Robson.
“What farmers and the Canadian public need to understand, is that the CWB will not survive if it loses its single desk selling advantage. Therefore, it’s a choice between the CWB with its single desk, or no CWB at all. The CWB does not possess assets, a reality that would prevent it from just simply turning into another grain company. Also, without the federal government guarantees on its loans, the CWB will have to borrow at much higher interest rates. As a consequence, the CWB is not viable if the single desk is taken away,” stated Robson.
The recent experience of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) is telling. In July 2008, the Australian government removed the single desk selling advantage from the AWB. Despite a wealth of assets, including grain handling facilities and fertilizer distribution facilities, the loss of the single desk meant that the AWB was no longer able to exercise effective market power on behalf of Australian farmers. It has been estimated that farmers have lost $2 billion worth of price premiums. Fears that the AWB would be lost to the international grain trade have been realized. The AWB has been broken up, with parts of it sold off to Agrium and Cargill respectively.
“If we allow ourselves to believe in the dual market myth, the Australian experience is destined to be repeated here in Western Canada. We cannot allow that to happen. The CWB’s single desk is crucial for maintaining the livelihoods of Western farmers,” concluded Robson.