Value Chain Reaction

Posted in: Global Ag     

0914 Value Chain Reaction

Don’t expect the new CEO of CIGI to come charging out of the gates.

JoAnne Buth stepped into the role as head of the Canadian International Grains Institute on September 8 and her first order of business is, interestingly, to listen.

She’ll not only be assessing the needs and concerns of players along the agri-food value chain — farmers, grain companies, food processors — but also the huge spectrum of international buyers of Canadian wheat.

“Tomorrow I’ve got a noodle lunch with a group of Chinese delegates here for a technical exchange so we can learn how to best use our products in noodles and steamed buns,” she says. “That’s what’s so exciting about CIGI — we’re connecting two worlds, the growers and the end users. We’re a knowledge broker.”

Buth is well known in the domestic and international grain industry, having spent most of her professional life in agriculture. The Manitoban was with the Canola Council of Canada, serving as Vice President from 1999 to 2007 and President from 2007 to 2012. She was appointed to the Canadian Senate in January 2012.

Her new job at CIGI was not a government appointment, Buth says. “I chose to leave the Senate because of the opportunity at CIGI. I competed for the position.”

Competitiveness will be a key theme for Buth in her new role. CIGI, which used to answer to the Canadian Wheat Board under the monopoly regime, has been re-imagining itself in the past few years.

Now, Buth’s challenge will be to continue to maintain Canada’s current relationship with international buyers, and grow new ones.

She says she’ll also make communica­tion among stakeholders a key priority.

“There’s a real opportunity here to make sure we are delivering value to the entire value chain,” she says. “But at end of the day, the focus is on the grower, because otherwise what does all this work mean in terms making sure there is demand for the crop?”

Buth says she’s already started meet­ing with the new Prairie cereal associa­tions that have formed in recent months. Also on the list: grain companies, food processors and producers.

She’ll be leaning on her experience at the Canola Council, says Buth. “I bring an understanding of whole value chain, from my work at the Canola Council, where we worked with all the players. CIGI used to work with one marketer, the CWB, now its focus needs to be on everybody selling into the market.”

She says she won’t be pushing CIGI to adopt the Canola Council’s model — though she will examine several different structures and adopt what works best.

“It’s not about picking one model, it’s about looking at many organizations — Pulse Canada, the Canola Council, groups in Australia and other parts of the world — and finding out what works because at the end of the day we need to make sure we’re bringing value all the way up the chain.”

About the Author
Tracy Tjaden

Tjaden is a Canadian journalist who has spent the majority of her career writing and editing for magazines, primarily business-related titles.

She grew up on a farm near Winnipeg, worked at several newspapers in Canada before specializing in magazines, with a focus on business, finance and agriculture.

Tjaden was Editor of BCBusiness Magazine in Vancouver and Managing Editor of a financial magazine in New York City before returning to Winnipeg. She is currently editor of the AgAdvance Journal and agadvance online, and can be reached at


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