The container shortage impact on Manitoba pulse and soybean growers

A container shortage isn’t hurting Manitoba pulse growers yet, but left unresolved it could.

“If everything is backed up it will eventually back up to the farm, Daryl Domitruk, Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers’ executive director, said in an interview Aug. 31.

“So this thing really has implications for the pulse world.”

The impact could vary with the crop, he said. A lot of yellow peas presumably will be sold to Roquette and processed in Manitoba rather than exported. However, a large portion of the province’s edible beans are exported to more than 27 countries and get there in containers.

Manitoba farmers growing identity-preserved (IP) food-grade soybeans could ultimately be affected too, Soy Canada executive director Brian Innes said in an interview Aug. 31.

“The situation on the ground (in Manitoba) is manageable,” he said. “Grain movement overall has been pretty good so there isn’t a storage crunch given the size of the IP program relative to the rest of Manitoba farmers’ production and the available amount of storage. Said another way, farmers and the trade have been able to manage storage because of the movement of all crops and soybeans not being a major draw on that storage.

“But ultimately the availability of empty containers in Vancouver does translate into challenges as well for shipping IP beans from Manitoba.”

An estimated one to two per cent of Manitoba’s annual soybean acres are IP soybeans. That works out to around 17,000 acres last year and perhaps 30,000 this year.

It’s a different situation in Ontario and Quebec where there are more IP soybeans grown and less places to store them.

“It’s a real challenge right now in Ontario because we’re coming off of very high yields last year, we’ve all been in a year of disrupted supply chains due to COVID and on top of that we’re expecting a good crop of beans coming off very shortly in Ontario so storage is at a premium, logistics has been challenged and is really challenged for some of our exporters because they can’t get empty containers.”

In the 2019-20 crop year Canada exported 1.2 million tonnes of IP soybeans in around 40,000 containers.

“We ship virtually all of our IP soybeans by containers, which means what we grow we ship by container, and we’re using multiple ports, including some western ports, including transloading in Vancouver,” Innes said.

“For identity-preserved soybeans access to containers at a competitive rate really drives our ability to grow a premium product.

“We directly see it on the soybean side because the Americans are our No. 1 competitor in high-value markets like Japan. We fight tooth and nail for market share in Japan. When the Americans have better service for containers that erodes our ability to be a top-tier service provider for our customers.

“What we need to see more of in Canada is attention to how market power of shipping companies is compromising our ability to have a competitive, value-added soybean sector.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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