January 24, 2024 (Regina, SK) - Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan (APAS) has submitted its official response to Transport Canada, expressing significant concerns and advocating for a meticulous evaluation of Bunge’s proposed acquisition of Viterra Ltd.
APAS highlights key public interest concerns that require careful examination to ensure alignment with national economic and social goals. Among them are the need for a federal review of the acquisition with a view on the supply chain and market access; a careful look at market competition, access to ports, and risk of monopolistic behaviour; and the impact on grain collection and transportation to market.
President Ian Boxall emphasized the potential impact on Saskatchewan grain producers. “The acquisition of Viterra by Bunge raises critical issues that, if unresolved, could significantly affect Saskatchewan grain producers. Given Viterra’s dominant position in Saskatchewan with 27 per cent of the total capacity, any merger warrants a comprehensive regulatory review to safeguard the market and transportation access crucial for our producers.”
Key areas of concern include the potential impact on producer delivery opportunities, the balance of market power, impediments to new market entrants, and the need for meticulous scrutiny of port and inland terminal operations. Saskatchewan’s grain and oilseeds sector plays a pivotal role in the Canadian economy, accounting for over half of Canada’s grain exports. Therefore, any acquisition must guarantee unimpeded access to crucial infrastructure.
Transportation efficiencies, particularly in rail transportation dominance, pricing dynamics, and infrastructure investments are of paramount concern. APAS recommends that regulatory mechanisms, such as interswitching and support for shortline rail operations, to counterbalance consolidation trends and support the viability of grain handling facilities are needed.
“Transport Canada must consider the impact the Viterra-Bunge deal could present to producers, especially relating to possible elevator closures,” said Boxall. “Given Viterra’s significant presence in the province, careful consideration must be taken before any acquisition is approved by the federal government."
Finally, APAS highlights the need for federal oversight in addressing logistical challenges for Canada’s economy. The Trade Corridor Fund and the National Supply Chain Strategy are crucial for resilience and transparency, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the impact of elevator closures on trade and advocating for more data and transparency in international sales and port terminal operations.
In August 2023, Transport Canada launched a public interest review process, asking for submissions on the possible merger under the Canada Transportation Act. The Minister determined that the acquisition raises public interest considerations related to national transportation. The review will assess the impact on competition, providing 250 days, or until June 2, 2024, to complete the assessment and provide a report to the Minister.
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