(Updates with Ritz comment from sixth paragraph, opposition comment in last paragraph.)
June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government plans to introduce legislation to end the nation’s grain-marketing monopoly by Aug. 1, 2012.
The legislation will end the Canadian Wheat Board’s control over wheat and barley exports, among the largest in the world, Ritz said today in an interview in Ottawa. The legislation will be introduced later this year, allowing farmers and the board time for input and preparations, he said.
“We’re looking at the fall session” for the legislation, Ritz said. “It’s a complex issue. It’s going to take some work with the board itself, and with the industry groups that are affected, to come up with the right piece of legislation.”
Canada’s governing Conservatives, who won a majority in the May 2 federal election, can fulfill a longstanding promise to scrap the Wheat Board because the government no longer needs the support of one of the opposition parties to push laws through Parliament. The board, which was established 75 years ago, has a mandate to buy and export all the wheat and barley produced in western Canada.
Wheat shipments by Canada ranked only behind the U.S., the European Union and Australia, and barley exports were the fourth-largest, after the EU, Australia and Ukraine, according to International Grains Council data.
The government will let the Wheat Board decide how to reinvent itself after the existing marketing system is wound down, Ritz said.
“We don’t to be too prescriptive as to what the new board will construct itself as,” Ritz said before giving a speech in Ottawa. “That’s up to them.”
The minister said the demise of the grain monopoly will boost the Canadian economy and encourage farmers to innovate.
“We have a sad lack of value-added commodities in western Canada due to this buyback situation that we face with the wheat board,” Ritz said. “This is all about giving farmers the same options that other farmers around the world enjoy.”
The New Democratic Party, which became Canada’s official opposition in the election, says the move will hurt prairie farmers and cost jobs in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the Wheat Board is based.
“There is no business case to scrap the Wheat Board,” said NDP lawmaker Pat Martin, who represents a district in Winnipeg. “It’s pure ideology. It’ll take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of prairie producers and put it in the pockets of the big agri-companies.”
--Editors: Paul Badertscher, Steve Stroth
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