The amount of Canadian grain exported in containers continues to grow.
Statistics collected by the Canadian Grain Commission show the amount of containerized grain shipped through ports at Montreal and Vancouver nearly tripled to 3.87 million tonnes last year from 1.38 million tonnes in 2001.
Containerized grain now constitutes close to 10 percent of total grain exports through the two ports, compared to four or five percent 15 years ago.
Grain industry observers have been anticipating an increase in containerized grain exports for some time.
Canadian specialty crop exports have grown, but an increasing number of containers are also being filled with other agricultural crops, such as wheat.
New exporters have entered the market since the western Canadian wheat industry was deregulated in 2012 and are attempting to supply smaller quantities of grain to niche buyers.
A similar trend emerged in Australia after that country took steps to eliminate the Australian Wheat Board’s marketing monoply.
Vancouver and Montreal handle most of Canada’s containerized grain shipments, but not all of them.
A small percentage, normally less than 10 percent, is shipped through other port locations, including Prince Rupert and Halifax.
Authorities at Port Metro Vancouver expect container trade demand, including grain and other products, to double in the next 15 years.
The four existing container terminals at the port of Vancouver handled a record 2.9 million 20 foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2014.
As well, the port plans to build a new container terminal called the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, which would allow the port of Vancouver to handle an additional 2.4 million TEUs annually.
The project is now undergoing an environmental review and is also subject to a final investment decision. Construction would be complete by the mid-2020s.