Churchill port slightly less busy as grain monopoly ends

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Canada’s only Arctic port, at Churchill, Man., saw slightly reduced grain shipments in 2012 as a government subsidy to shippers partly offset a change in how western grain is marketed.

The port handled 432,434 tonnes of grain, mostly wheat and durum, but also barley and canola, down about four per cent from the 10-year average of more than 450,000, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Wednesday. In 2011, the Canadian Wheat Board exported 507,000 tonnes of grain through the port.

The federal government offered shippers a subsidy this year of $9 per tonne of grain moved through the Hudson Bay port, in an effort to keep volumes up despite the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly in August.

The CWB has historically been Churchill’s biggest user, but other grain handlers have favoured ports where they own grain storage terminals on the Great Lakes and Pacific Coast.

The former board now operates as a small company, CWB, in an open Prairie grain market.

The federal shipping incentive is worth $25 million over five years.

Two new shippers used the port in 2012, privately-held grain handler Richardson International and Nearco Transportation Consulting.

Churchill’s shipping season generally runs from late July to November. – Reuters