In the interest of farmers, at all costs
To hear Christiane Boulet speak passionately about her job, you’d think that her office at Sollio Agriculture was a veritable control station. While she’s handling a wheat sale with a buyer over the phone, her cell phone is ringing and her email inbox is rapidly filling up. Straddling the responsibilities of both buyer and seller, the grain merchant is very familiar with her role: offering farmers the best terms of sale.
“We tend to believe that grain merchants just want to close out the best deals,” says Christiane Boulet, laughing. “It’s true that I do a lot of calculating, but my work is really about establishing good human relations.”
Christiane Boulet, who is responsible for buying and selling grain at Sollio Agriculture, explains that her main everyday task is to reach out to her suppliers and customers. “Talking to my people on a regular basis helps me identify price trends,” she says. “I follow the markets in the media very closely, but I get the most relevant information in the field.”
According to Christiane Boulet, personalized service is, among other things, what sets Sollio Agriculture’s approach apart from the rest. “We adapt according to the quality of the product. We bargain hard with buyers to find a win-win solution for farmers at the end of the day.”
The integrated offer is also an important benefit. “Farmers can buy their seeds from and sell their harvests to us,” says Boulet. “It’s very advantageous for them because grain merchants from the local cooperative are familiar with the farmers and their production.” She adds that the integrated offer provides peace of mind and saves a great deal of time for farmers.
Things change quickly when you’re talking grain marketing. “One minute I’m a buyer and the next minute I’m a seller,” says Boulet. “You have to be efficient and be able to handle pressure.” Merchants have to buy and sell at a good price, while optimizing markets. “If I have wheat in Saint-Hyacinthe, my plan is not to send it to Rimouski,” she says. “I’ll use my wheat in Rivière-du-Loup instead.”
In addition to managing her everyday tasks, Boulet has to be able to plan longer term purchases. “We bought wheat for 2021 harvests at the end of the summer because the price was really good,” says Boulet.
She encourages farmers to grow cereals. “Wheat is a major ingredient in feed composition, and animals eat 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” she adds. “That’s the case this year, and it will be the case next year, too.”
Elite seeds advisor Lyne Beaumont also agrees that it’s a great time to grow cereals. “Since markets could be uncertain because of international trade tensions, it might be a good idea to diversify by growing cereals,” says Beaumont.
As someone whose work involves training agri-advisors from an agronomic standpoint, she stays well informed of changing markets. “To be a good advisor, you have to have an overview of the market, from both an economic and agronomic point of view,” she says. “You have to know what’s going on around you!”
Beaumont says that, from an agronomic standpoint, it’s also profitable to grow cereals. “It makes for healthy soil, and our seeds are really high-performance!” she says.
In addition to excellent yields, farmers who choose Elite seeds also receive the exceptional support of agri-advisors from the cooperative network. “As advisors, we’re up on the latest trends and best practices worldwide,” says Beaumont. “We make sure to share all our knowledge with the agri-advisors, so that they can provide farmers with support on a daily basis.” Promoting excellence is what motivates Lyne Beaumont and Christiane Boulet every day, and they achieve that goal one call, one field meeting and one training session at a time.
Although the main buyers of oats have increased prices and the terms of sale in the past few years, last year’s drought had a major impact on harvests. “I worked very hard to ensure that my customers bought oats even if the yield was not as high,” says Sollio Agriculture grain merchant Christiane Boulet. “I didn’t want farmers to get stuck with unsold harvests.” She expects that next season will be much more clement. “I’ve never seen a drought as severe as this year, so things can only get better,” she concludes.