Letters to the editor – January 30, 2020 – Let P&H keep two elevators

January 31, 2020 | Eastern Canada

OPINION (click for original letter): producer.com

A few days ago I received a phone call from a Canada Competition Bureau agent with reference to the recent acquisition of 10 former Louis Dreyfus Company elevators by Parrish and Heimbecker. 

The Competition Bureau has recently filed an application to order P&H to sell either their current Moosomin location or their newly purchased Virden elevator.  The reason given is that P&H now controls two elevators along 180 kilometres of Highway No. 1, putting area producers at a perceived competitive disadvantage. 

Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. The announcement of this deal was made at least six months ago, so the competition bureau files this order after the elevator purchase is completed. Making such an order at this late stage creates a very real risk of closure of the Virden elevator, causing job losses and the loss of grain marketing and delivery opportunities for producers.

 I am very pleased that P&H has bought the Virden elevator. Hopefully, with good management from P&H, we can look forward to investment and upgrades that are badly needed at Virden.

It has long been the slowest elevator to unload trucks for miles. Often I can return from a round trip to P&H at Moosomin, 50 km away, in a shorter time than delivering to Virden, 15 km from my farm.

P&H recently launched their P&H direct app. This has proven to be the most price transparent and easiest-to-use tool from any grain company to date, offering instant access to grain pricing at all Canadian P&H elevators and immediate viewing of one’s contracts and scale tickets. As soon as the purchase was completed, all of the former LDC locations were listed on the P&H app offering grain pricing.

For too many years LDC at Virden only purchased wheat and canola, which restricted marketing options. Under P&H, Virden now offers a more diverse range of pricing for canola, feed barley, red spring wheat, oats and feed wheat suiting the diverse cropping nature of our small family farm. This competes directly with their own Moosomin elevator, often offering premiums over Moosomin prices. With good, efficient management and two locations, P&H is easily capable of moving a much larger amount of grain out of the area than has been realized in the past. Most producers now often haul grain over longer distances to achieve their pricing, so if P&H does not suit them it should not present new marketing challenges.

The Government of Canada repeatedly states that it supports economic growth. The Competition Bureau, with this order, seeks to restrict growth and limit crop diversity in the area.

Once French-owned, the 10 former Louis Dreyfus elevators are now owned by a successful Canadian family owned business based in Winnipeg, something that all Canadians should be proud of.

What’s not to like about this purchase? Why is the federal government interfering with market forces, encouraging poor grain marketing practices and listening to ineffective farm organizations that do not represent producers’ interests?

I hope P&H will be allowed to retain ownership of both Moosomin and Virden elevators, creating new economic growth and greater area crop diversity in the future. It is to everyone’s advantage.

Jason Hooper
Elkhorn, Man.