On today’s date in 1976, the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) sold China nearly one million tons of wheat.
The populous East Asian country signed an agreement to purchase 35.4 million bushels of Canadian wheat in a deal that reduced CWB inventory to its lowest point in 10 years, according to an article published the following day by the Winnipeg Free Press.
“The purchase is the fourth contract signed by the Chinese since a three-year agreement was arranged in October, 1973, and brings total Chinese purchases in the period to 152 million bushels,” reads the Feb. 28, 1976 article.
“A wheat board official in Winnipeg said the deal will bring total exports for the current crop year to about 450 million bushels and no further sales will be made until firm estimates on this year’s crop are on hand. Last year’s crop was a below-average 465 million bushels. Canada requires about 185 million bushels for domestic consumption.”
FEWER THAN 300M BUSHELS
As of July 31, 1975, CWB stocks totalled about 290 million bushels—the first time they dipped below 300 million bushels since 1965. With strong sales the following year, there were only about 125 million bushels remaining in 1976.
“We’re virtually sold out,” said a wheat board representative. “While we know there is still a lot of wheat on hand, most of it is spread out in the system.”
The wheat in the 1976 deal with China was mostly #3 Canada Western Red Spring Wheat, which was shipped from the Pacific Coast between April and December of that year.
Founded in 1935, the Canadian Wheat Board was a monopsony – the only buyer of wheat and barley – that marketed wheat and barley for Western Canada. It dissolved in 2015.
1988 WHEAT STAMP
In 1988, Canada Post featured Marquis wheat on a 37-cent multi-coloured stamp (Scott #1207) from a series entitled “Canada Day – Science and Technology, Canadian Innovations in Energy, Food, Research and Medicine.”
Designed by Roger Hill, of Toronto, the stamp marked the end of the three-year stamp series on Canadian innovations in science and technology.
“Canadian scientists have helped to banish the darkness, to feed people better, to view the smallest objects, and to cure once fatal diseases,” reads promotional material issued by the Crown corporation in 1988.
“In 1903 Charles Saunders began working on a cross between two wheat varieties, Red Fife and Hard Red Calcutta. The resulting strain, named Marquis Wheat, matured faster than other wheats. It was also disease resistant and increased yields considerably, which greatly facilitated agriculture on the Prairies, an area with a short frost-free growing season.”
In 1904, Saunders developed Marquis wheat, which does remarkably well in the short Canadian growing season. After further research and testing, the crop was released to farmers in 1909.
Within a decade, about 20 million acres were planted across North America. Considered Canada’s greatest agricultural triumph, Marquis wheat continues to provide Canadians with a high-yielding, economy-boosting crop.