Meal needs dedicated capacity

Canola crushers hope to see custom meal export facilities built on the West Coast because piggybacking on the regular grain-handling system isn’t adequate for long-term growth.

With crushers and analysts expecting Canada to continually boost canola meal exports in coming years, the product needs to be treated right.

“The lack of dedicated capacity to (handling) meal in Vancouver is a more broad issue that is on our agenda,” said Chris Vervaet, executive director of the Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association.

“We see offshore shipments for meal and oil to be an important part of our strategy.”

At Manitoba Ag Days, German analyst Thomas Mielke of Oil World magazine said farmers should “scream” because of the lack of canola meal handling facilities on the West Coast. He said world buyers sometimes put up offers for meal, but Canadian suppliers can’t take the bids because they can’t move the meal through Vancouver. He said the situation isn’t a crisis now, but problems will develop as exports expand.

Vervaet said Mielke’s comments are “perhaps a bit overstated” but agreed that the present situation needs to be improved as more canola meal comes to market.

Canola meal is mostly exported as pellets through normal grain-handling facilities. That has worked fine but isn’t ideal. 

Pellets have characteristics that make piggybacking on crop-handling facilities a concern.

“It’s that dedicated capacity (the crushers want),” said Vervaet.

“There are some nuances and differences when you’re loading meal pellets, and that’s what’s lacking out on the West Coast.”

The pellets move by hopper car from the Prairies to “third party” handlers, such as the major grain export terminals.

Canada exported almost four million tonnes of canola meal last year, but 3.2 million of that went to the United States.

However, China received almost 600,000 tonnes, and Thailand received almost 80,000 tonnes. This crop year, 277,000 tonnes had been shipped to China by Jan. 10.

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