Competition Bureau concludes investigation into crop input suppliers’ interactions with Farmers Business Network

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

The Canadian Competition Bureau says it did not find enough evidence to continue its investigation into allegations of anticompetitive behaviour in the crop input market in Western Canada between several crop input suppliers and Farmers Business Network (FBN) Canada.

After entering the Canadian market in 2017, FBN acquired Yorkton Distributors in 2018, a Yorkton, SK.-based retailer that had existing relationships with crop input manufacturers and wholesalers. Shortly after the acquisition, FBN alleged these other companies were denying or restricting access to their products.

The Competition Bureau formally opened the inquiry in response to FBN’s allegations in the fall of 2019, and received court orders in February 2020 requiring BASF, Bayer, Cargill, Corteva, Federated Coop, Univar Solutions, and Winfield produce records and written information relevant to the investigation.

On Tuesday (March 15), the Bureau said it had closed the investigation, after determining the evidence “does not sufficiently demonstrate that an agreement exists between competitors in relation to FBN.”

“Nonetheless, the evidence does suggest that certain market participants communicated with the goal of influencing suppliers with respect to FBN. The Bureau views these communications – which took place in a highly concentrated sector –  to be a significant concern,” says the Bureau, in its position statement.

The competition regulator also warns that it will continue to closely monitor the crop input market for “for any anticompetitive conduct that seeks to restrict new entrants and has the potential to substantially lessen or prevent competition. Should new evidence come to light, the Bureau will take action.”

FBN says it welcomes the Competition Bureau’s report.

“We appreciate the hard work and comprehensive diligence the Canadian Competition Bureau applied to this issue over the past three years,” says Charles Baron, FBN co-founder, in a news release issued following the competition regulator’s announcement.

Read the Competition Bureau’s position statement following the investigation into the crop input market in Western Canada here.

Related: Competition Bureau obtains court orders to move ahead in crop input supplier investigation

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