Despite incentives from the government for farmers to ship grain through the Port of Churchill following the break-up of the Canadian Wheat Board, overall shipment tonnage dropped. However. Agricultural minister Gerry Ritz remains optimistic for the future of the deep-water Arctic shipping port.

Approximately 434,434 tonnes of grain were shipped from Churchill this year, about 15 per cent less than last year and the lowest amount since 2008. However, the 10 -year historical average is only slightly higher at roughly 450,000 tonnes. Diversification of the port’s shipping capabilities is reason for widespread optimism for future years.

One year ago the Canadian Wheat Board was officially dissolved ending the monopoly on prairie wheat wheat and barley shipments through Churchill. Previously the Wheat Board accounted for 90% of the shipments through Churchill.

Grain ship awaits docking at the port of Churchill.

Grain vessel awaits docking at the Port of Churchill. Photo Steve Selden

In a previous blog posting, I reported a $25 -million, five year transition program offering incentives for shipping grain through Churchill. These incentives, despite the lower shipping totals, have allowed the port to diversify and ship canola and barley as well as the usual wheat and durum products

“With the help of this transition funding, Churchill is well-positioned to continue to diversify and maintain the historical average in the future,” Ritz said in a release.

Foggy view of the Port of Churchill.

Future of the Port of Churchill is a bit foggy. Photo Steve Selden

In July, Churchill Gateway Development Corporation executive director Jeff McEachern said the corporation is also looking at adding new commodities such as potash and crude oil to the mix. With decreasing Arctic ice and more ice-free days to the shipping season, the possibilities for shipping out of Churchill are growing. Churchill’s opportunistic reputation should surely be able to take advantage of any openings for port growth.

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