Grain leaves Churchill for first time in four years

The Port of Churchill in 2015. (CNS Canada photo by Jade Markus)

MarketsFarm — The first grain vessel in four years left the northern Manitoba port of Churchill over the weekend, according to social media posts from port owners Arctic Gateway Group.

“Happy to report the successful completion and departure of the first grain vessel of the season from Churchill,” Arctic Gateway said on Twitter and Facebook.

The vessel arrived at the port on Aug. 25, but loading was delayed due to adverse weather, according to reports.

Arctic Gateway described the shipment as “a really important first step in re-establishing the Port of Churchill as an important part of Canada’s position as an agricultural export leader in the world.”

When reached, Arctic Gateway officials declined to comment and said they would not provide any details on the cargo beyond the available social media posts on what was a “commercial transaction.”

According to Canadian Grain Commission data, there were 35,400 tonnes of durum and 11,500 tonnes of lentils in storage in Churchill as of Sept. 1.

Online tracking data shows a cargo ship named Federal Satsuki left Churchill on Saturday, with Sarroch, on the Italian island of Sardina, its next port of call. The vessel has the capacity to carry 43,561 tonnes of grain.

The Port of Churchill, on the shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, is Canada’s only deepwater Arctic port and a typical season runs from late July through October.

OmniTrax, the previous owner of the port and rail line servicing it, abruptly halted grain shipments in the 2016 season, after fewer than 200,000 tonnes moved through the facility the previous year. Grain movement had slowed since the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk in 2012.

Sections of the rail line washed out in 2017 and were left in disrepair until the Arctic Gateway Group took over in 2018 and began repairs.

AGG is a partnership of First Nations and other northern communities, Toronto financier Fairfax Financial Holdings and Regina-based pulse processor AGT Food and Ingredients.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.

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