When the first Fields on Wheels conference took place in 1996, the Western Canadian grain supply chain looked very different. The Government of Canada was still contributing $1 billion to subsidize rail transportation, grain co-operatives dominated the handling sector and the Canadian Wheat Board held a monopoly over all wheat, barley and oat exports. Containers hardly even figured in grain exports, and upstart special crops were still pretty special. Thunder Bay reigned as the dominant grain exporting port. How things have changed!
So, where will Western Canadian farmers be 20 years from now? Many factors are in play. The Asian countries are increasing their incomes as well as their populations. Combined with the TPP, the grain trade to Asia could experience a quantum change in demand. If current population projections are fulfilled, the world will have a billion more mouths to feed by 2035. But the real story may be Africa. Half of that growth will occur in Africa, which is more easily served by the eastern Great Lakes-Seaway route. The world demand for Canadian grain could look very different two decades from now.