Richardson International plans to expand its 108,000-tonne Vancouver grain export terminal by 65 per cent to keep up with its growing business, the Winnipeg-based company announced last week.
“Obviously with the changes to the Canadian Wheat Board it’s a much more competitive landscape, but there are also a lot more opportunities,” Tracey Shelton, Richardson International’s director of corporate communications said in an interview. “Global demand is increasing. There’s no end in sight of that as our population grows.”
The 150-year-old Canadian grain company applied to Port Metro Vancouver in August to build 80,000 tonnes of concrete grain storage at its north Vancouver facility and announced the $120-million project Oct. 1.
If the two-year project is approved, 80,000 tonnes of new storage will be added west of the workhouse, but 10,000 tonnes of existing storage will be removed bringing total storage to 178,000 tonnes, Shelton said.
The current facility, which can export around three million tonnes of grains and oilseeds annually, has been working at full capacity the last four years, she said.
The expanded terminal will handle five million tonnes — almost 67 per cent more than it does now.
“Essentially this will allow us to handle more grain,” Shelton said. “Now we have some competitors move our grain just because we don’t have the space. We’d like to obviously do it on our own.
“We’re also a growing business. We’ve had a number of years of continuous growth and don’t see that changing so the added capacity would certainly help in that light as well.”
Some of that growth came by acquiring some of Agricore United’s elevators in 2007. The company has bought other elevators too.
Consultations with nearby Vancouver residents and other interested parties started last week with a public open house allowing citizens to review Richardson International’s plans. Another open house was scheduled for this week.
Five “stakeholder” meetings are planned. Citizens can provide feedback on the project at the meetings or online.
Richardson International will review the comments and respond in November.
The port, a federal agency, will decide if the project goes ahead.
Expanding its Vancouver terminal won’t have any impact on Prince Rupert’s grain terminal, which Richardson International owns with several other grain companies, Shelton said.
Prince Rupert is considered a residual port even though it has some advantages over Vancouver such as less congestion and being closer to some Asian customers. But grain companies prefer to use their terminals to maximize returns.
Shelton wouldn’t speculate on whether Richardson International might someday buy the Port of Churchill, currently owned by OmniTRAX, which doesn’t have a country elevator business. Richardson has been using the port this season, but its future is uncertain after Ottawa’s $9-a-tonne shipping subsidy ends in five years.
“The big thing for us right now is Vancouver simply because it’s our main port and that’s where global demand is increasing,” Shelton said.