Exports from the Port of Churchill are expected to remain high, as grain companies have used up nearly all of the incentive money offered by the federal government. The port will also be busy exporting new commodities this year.
"There’s a very small percentage of the incentive remaining for this year, and there’s upwards of four grain companies in line to utilize it right now," said Jeff McEachern, executive director of the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation. McEachern couldn’t specify exactly how much incentive is left.
The Churchill Gateway Development Corporation provides marketing strategies for OmniTRAX Canada, the private company that owns and operates the Port of Churchill.
In April, the Canadian government announced that it would provide $25 million over five years to encourage non-board grain companies to use the Port of Churchill, Canada’s only deepwater Arctic port. The deal guaranteed $9 per tonne for crops sent through the port.
Sellers have shown significant interest in the government’s offer, as expectations are for exports from the port to exceed 500,000 tonnes, McEachern said. In 2011, the port exported about the same amount, but all shipments were Canadian Wheat Board grains.
However, since the CWB no longer has single desk marketing control over Canadian wheat, durum and barley, the port has invested in new crops to ship, McEachern said. Yet, he added that the bulk of the shipments will still be CWB grains.
The Port of Churchill will still be accepting the same grains as last year, but there will also be feed peas and canola in the mix too, McEachern said.
McEachern said canola is of particular interest because of the significantly increased canola production over the past year. The fact that it’s covered by the government incentive will also help bring in higher volumes of the crop, he added.
The port will also be accepting some new commodities this year like potash and even crude oil, McEachern said.
"There’s lots of interest in the export of crude oil because of the oversubscription to pipeline capacity to refiners," McEachern said. "So the oil and gas sector is looking for all opportunities to move crude to refiners, and Churchill is being seriously explored for that."
Churchill’s port is now accepting shipments as well. The first ships are scheduled to come in between August 8 and 10, McEachern said.
The average shipping season for the port runs from August through October, although shipments can be made even later in the year with the help of an icebreaker.