Grain handler buys land in Sask.

Toronto based | The company is considering development opportunities

A Toronto company that owns grain handling facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, New York and Ontario is accumulating land near the Canada-U.S. border near Northgate, Sask.

However, company officials are sharing few details about their plans in the area.

Jason Gould, chief financial officer of Ceres Global Ag Corp., confirmed last week that Corus Land Holdings, an affiliated company, has been buying land in the Northgate area but he declined to say how much land has been acquired or what the company plans to use it for.

Ceres, a public company whose shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange, also owns 100 percent of Riverland Ag Corp., a Minneapolis-based grain storage business that operates 15 grain storage facilities in Canada and the United States and has total storage capacity of 55 million bushels.

“I will confirm that we’ve bought some land in the area and are considering development opportunities,” Gould said.

“But at this time, we haven’t gotten to the point where any kind of definitive decisions (have been) made around what that will be…. Unfortunately, I can’t really comment on much more than that.”

Earlier this year, council members from the Rural Municipality of Enniskillin, which includes the hamlet of Northgate, approved a motion to sell Corus a block of land owned by the RM.

According to local reports, the RM agreed to sell close to 170 lots in the hamlet for approximately $120,000.

Municipal officials said Corus was interested in buying the land so it could build a grain loading facility in the area.

As of last week, however, the company had not applied for a development permit.

“When they bought Northgate from us, they said it was for a grain handling facility,” said one municipal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“They didn’t … (specify the size of the proposed) grain handling facility … but we are working under the assumption that it should be a fairly large one.”

Under provincial farmland ownership laws, publicly traded companies or their affiliates must receive approval from the Saskatchewan Farmland Security Board if they want to buy more than 10 acres of farmland in the province.

Corus has received approval from the farmland security board to acquire properties on two quarter sections in and around the hamlet of Northgate as well as an additional seven quarter sections of nearby land in the RM.

There are two elevators in the Northgate area: a General Mills facility on the American side of the border and a Richardson Pioneer facility located a few kilometres north of the border. The Richardson facility has been inactive for several years.

Gould said Riverland Ag has been an active buyer of Canadian cereal grains.

“Historically, (we have) been big buyers of Canadian oats, not so much Canadian wheat and barley because of the Canadian Wheat Board,” he said.

“But we expect that to change as markets become more integrated.”

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