New demand shown for Canadian corn, in Spain

Two cargoes of Canadian corn were shipped to Spain in just over a month, a rare occurrence that underscores strong demand for the feed grain in Europe.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Josianne Martel said on Wednesday that two ships, the Rodlo and Great Mary, left the port of Sorel, Que., with Canadian corn for Spain.

The Great Mary left the port Jan. 11, docking on Tuesday at Spain’s Coruna port with 30,000 tonnes of corn, according to Coruna’s roster.

Canada, a net importer of corn, made no significant shipments of corn to Spain during an 11-year period through 2008-09, according to Canadian Grain Commission records.

As of November, however, Canadian corn shipments to Spain totaled 41,200 tonnes during the current crop year’s first four months, nearly four times the five-year average for Canadian corn shipments to all of Western Europe.

Lower European Union production of coarse grains is likely causing countries like Spain to look for new origins like Canada, said John Pauch, coarse grains analyst for Canada’s agriculture department.

Corn, also called maize, has been in increasing demand in Spain, which needs to import about 11 million tonnes of cereal a year, because it is now trading at an unusual discount to feed wheat, an important ingredient in animal feed.

“Maize is the only raw material in which feed makers have  covered their needs for the entire first quarter. Others are covered only up till February,” said Jorge de Saja, director of the Spanish Feed Compunders’ Federation.

“Maize is the only quote-unquote cheap raw material. A lot of it is physically present in Spain and it is available in the EU, which explains why it is trading at the same price as barley, although it is much more interesting.”

The shipment from Canada comes weeks after the United States sent its first bulk maize cargo to Spain in at least 12 years. The levy for maize imports to Spain is now set at zero, due to high world prices, which dealers say allows them to choose from a wider range of origins.

The Rodlo, which left Sorel on Dec. 23 holding an unknown tonnage of corn, is anchored off the coast of Casablanca.

Privately held grain handler Richardson International Limited owns the grain terminal at Sorel. Spokeswoman Tracey Thompson said the company does not comment on specific business activities.

— Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul in London

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