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European, Middle East demand for Canadian wheat surges through Thunder Bay

Above-average grain shipments through port expected to continue in 2020
Thunder Bay port elevators
(Michael Hull/Port of Thunder Bay supplied photo)

Increased demand for Western Canadian grain in Europe and the Middle East continues to push traffic through the Port of Thunder Bay.

During the month of June, the port handled 3.2 million tonnes of grain, 35 per cent higher than the five-year average of 2.4 million tonnes.

Ship traffic is also up. Since the opening of the 2020 shipping season, 57 foreign-flagged vessels have made their way up the Seaway to load grain in Thunder Bay, up from 36 during the same period last year. Domestic vessel visits are up slightly at 111, better than the 98 recorded in 2019.

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A July 6 news release from the Thunder Bay Port Authority said many countries have increased imports of staple commodities for food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rail cars unloads of grain in the northwestern Ontario port increased by 10,000 cars for the year-to-date but remain flat at Canadian West Coast ports.

The authority said in early June, South West Terminals in Antelope, Sask. loaded Canadian Pacific’s longest ever single-origin grain train - 224 hopper cars - carrying 22,223 tonnes of durum wheat to Thunder Bay.

Recent investments by CP Rail have increased hopper car capacity from 93 to 102 tonnes, nearly double the traditional boxcar capacity of 55 tonnes.

The authority expects grain shipments to continue at above-average levels through the summer.

Dry bulk cargoes (road salt and sand) are also up dramatically from 49,340 tonnes posted last year to 92,000 tonnes to-date this year.