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Life after Canada's wheat board

Tags: Viterra
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The Harper government took a big step this week towards dismantling the Canadian wheat board's monopoly over western grain.

Ottawa intends to pass legislation by the end of 2011 to end the Wheat Board's 69-year-old grain monopoly, allowing Western Canada's farmers to sell wheat and barley for milling or export directly to grain handlers.

Canada's biggest grain handler, Viterra Inc, is willing to work with the Canadian Wheat Board in an open market system and thinks the board can thrive without its marketing monopoly, Chief Executive Mayo Schmidt said on Friday.

"I'm sure and hopeful that they will add value, and will be given every opportunity to do that, and thrive as a commercial enterprise here in Canada," Schmidt said in an interview with Reuters from Calgary, Alberta.   

The Conservative government will continue to guarantee the Wheat Board's borrowings and initial payments for farmers' grain under the proposed legislation, but it has refused the CWB's request for regulated access to grain handling facilities or start-up capital.   

The board has no retained earnings of its own, or country elevators and port terminals to store grain.   

"If the Wheat Board chooses to engage with industry to frame out a relationship and access to the (grain-handling) system, which will be provided, I think their prospects will be greater if do it sooner than if they do it later," Schmidt said.

"The opportunity is now to take advantage of the openness and willingness of all players to welcome them as a participant."

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