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Harper sells Wheat Board to US corporation & Saudi investment fund

The Harper government has sold the Canadian Wheat Board.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “Harper sells out Wheat Board to two foreign corporations. Biggest theft from farmers in Canada’s history!!!”

The Globe and Mail reports, “Until Ottawa ended its monopoly in 2012, the Canadian Wheat Board was the prairie farmer’s link to food companies around the world. Now the former giant has been taken over by a U.S. agrifood company and an investment fund owned by Saudi Arabia. The $250-million deal announced on Wednesday marks the final stage in the transformation of the Canadian Wheat Board, which was formed by Parliament in 1935 to guarantee western farmers would get fair prices for their wheat and barley.”

The article notes, “Global Grain Group (G3), a joint venture between food company Bunge Ltd. and a unit of Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. known as SALIC Canada Ltd., will pay $250-million for a 50.1-per-cent stake in the grain trader. The rest of the equity in CWB will be available to farmers who sell their grain to the company.”

But the Financial Post clarifies that rather than “paying for” or “buying” the CWB, “Under the terms of the deal, G3 is committed to spending $250 million in the CWB.” And Global News adds, “G3 Global Grain Group will get 50.1 per cent of the company in exchange for an investment of $250 million. The other 49.9 per cent will be kept in trust for farmers who deliver grain to the board. Any farmer who does deliver will get $5 per tonne in equity in the organization. In seven years, G3 Global Grain Group has the option to buy back the shares from farmers at market value.”

National Farmers Union president Jan Slomp says, “With this, the Conservative government has accomplished the biggest transfer of wealth away from farmers in the history of Canada. The CWB’s physical assets, its commercial relationships, and its good name have all been given away. The ‘buyers’ of the CWB actually get to keep the $250 million pittance they are ‘paying’ for it.”

And NDP MP Pat Martin comments, “This is a strategic industry for Canada. It might be different if they sold the wheat board for billions of dollars. But they didn’t. They’re handing it over free of charge. All the assets – we’re talking the thousands of rail cars, the port terminals, the ships on the Great Lakes. …I think it’s a sad for the Canadian grain industry. There never was a business for abolishing the wheat board to begin with, but you really have to question what kind of a business model it is to hand it over to an American agrifood giant and a Saudi agrifood giant who until recently were your greatest competitors.”

The Council of Canadians has long supported the Canadian Wheat Board.

In 2005, we said, “The Government of Canada should maintain the Canadian Wheat Board and supply-management mechanisms that support family farms, protecting them from the prejudiced impact of international trade agreements.” And in 2011, we participated in a court challenge that argued Section 47 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act required a vote by grain producers to remove the single-desk marketing authority of the Canadian Wheat Board. At a rally that year in front of the Canadian Wheat Board office in Winnipeg, Barlow told the large crowd assembled there, “Stephen Harper doesn’t like democracy, and you know what? I don’t think he likes farmers very much either.”

Photo: Barlow speaks at rally in defence of the Canadian Wheat Board in Winnipeg, October 2011.