Hamilton

Grain shipments from Hamilton port soar after bumper year for Ontario corn

An increase in overseas exports of Ontario-grown corn has led to a surge in cargo volume at the Port of Hamilton.

Cargo shipments through the Port of Hamilton are up by 20% so far this year

The Port of Hamilton is Ontario’s largest port. Cargo shipments through the port are up by 20 per cent so far this year. (Hamilton Port Authority)

An increase in overseas exports of Ontario-grown corn has led to a surge in cargo volume at the Port of Hamilton.

Larissa Fenn, director of public affairs at the Hamilton Port Authority, said cargo shipments through the port are up by 20 per cent so far this year.

We've had recent shipments from Hamilton to Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands.- Larissa   Fenn , director, public affairs, Hamilton Port Authority

"Our total tonnage [all commodities] so far this year is 4.7 million metric tonnes, compared to 3.9 million metric tonnes at the same point last year," Fenn told CBC Hamilton. 

"Grain is up 93 per cent on a year-to-date basis. Close to one million metric tonnes have transited the port so far this year, including 600,000 metric tonnes of Ontario-grown corn." 

This compares with 492,000 metric tonnes of grain and 250,000 metric tonnes corn for the same period in 2017.

All of this corn has been exported overseas, Fenn said, adding that the primary export market for Ontario-grown corn is Europe. 

"We've had recent shipments from Hamilton to Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands," she said.

"Europe is always a large importer of corn. This year, a heat wave has meant European livestock producers have been relying on more imported corn as feed."

More than 10 million tonnes of cargo are imported and exported through the Port of Hamilton each year. (Hamilton Port Authority)

Farmer and grain merchandiser James Tetreault said since November last year, there has been an influx of buyers coming to Ontario in search of corn.

"Last year was one of our highest yields ever for corn and so all the domestic users here in Ontario had those numbers plugged into their data sheets and figured that there'd be lots of corn for sale throughout the year," Tetreault told CBC Hamilton.

"I guess the export market kind of caught everyone off guard over how much they're actually shipping throughout the year."

Farmer and grain merchandiser James Tetreault said since November last year, there has been an influx of buyers coming to Ontario in search of corn. (James Tetreault)

Tetreault said the export market has found that Ontario is a reliable source.

"There's no trade dispute really ongoing with any other country that we've been shipping to," he said.

"They just seem to be kind of coming back and hitting the market again just because they know that there was that extra tonnage sitting there in Ontario and the quality is good, the price is good and they didn't have to worry about any trade disputes ongoing." 

CETA is also driving exports

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is also driving some of the increased activity, as it has given Canadian corn improved access to Europe.

At the same time, the EU has placed a retaliatory tariff on U.S. corn, which usually serves some of this market.

"Whether the motivating factor is tariff changes or something else, what's happening now with corn is an example of how Canada is well-served by being prepared to diversify," Fenn said.

The Port of Hamilton has also placed a lot of emphasis on diversification. 

Agricultural cargo has grown as a proportion of the port's total tonnage, from nine per cent in 2008, to 23 per cent in 2017.

The port has attracted more than $200 million in agricultural-related investment in the last decade, including two new grain export terminals. 

"This new infrastructure means Canadian producers have the ability to ship more product, and take advantage of new market opportunities when they arise," Fenn said. 

"This season's experience with corn has been a perfect example of how investments in trade-enabling infrastructure really position Canada to compete globally."

Meanwhile, a 25 per cent increase in year-to-date shipments on the St. Lawrence Seaway have also also been reflected at the Port of Hamilton. 

As of the end of July, steelmaking inputs, coal and coke continue to trend about 40 per cent higher at the port than the same period in 2017, while iron ore has been stable so far year over year, the Chamber of Marine Commerce said.

The chamber is a bi-national association that represents more than 130 marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners.

The Hamilton Port Authority manages more than 600 acres of industrial land on Hamilton Harbour. (Submitted)

More than 187,000 metric tons of products such as gasoline and diesel have transited the port so far this season, 56 per cent more than the same period in 2017, it added.

Overall, the port's tonnage to the end of July exceeded 4.7 million metric tons, 20 per cent higher than year-to-date 2017.

"The commodities transiting the port's piers showcase the role of marine transportation in a number of key southern Ontario industries, such as steel-making and other advanced manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and petrochemicals," said Ian Hamilton, president and CEO at the Hamilton Port Authority.

About the Author

Desmond Brown

Journalist

Desmond Brown is a senior online reporter with CBC News. Email: desmond.brown@cbc.ca | Twitter: @Desmond_CBC

now