Sask. growers twitch over elevator closures

Viterra is closing its grain elevator at Eyebrow, Sask., about 150 kilometres northwest of Regina, citing market conditions.

In a Jan. 8 email to The Western Producer, Viterra confirmed that operations at the 9,500 tonne facility will be suspended this spring until further notice.

Sources in the area say some growers who delivered to the Eyebrow facility will likely be forced to haul their grain an extra 100 kilometres or more to facilities at Moose Jaw, Strongfield or Herbert, (Reed Lake) Sask.

“We continuously review our footprint to ensure our assets support our focus on pipeline efficiencies and use our capital effectively,” Viterra said in the email.

“Due to current market conditions, we are suspending operations at Eyebrow effective this spring until further notice.

“Our top priority is to provide our producer and end use customers with the best possible service, and we must continue enhancing our competitive position to be successful in today’s environment.” 

Viterra has opened new high-throughput elevators in Kindersley, Sask., Grimshaw, Alta., and Ste. Agathe, Man., in the past few years.  This year it will open new locations at Wadena, Sask., and Vegreville, Alta.

Not surprisingly, the planned closure at Eyebrow is not sitting well with growers in that area.

“This closure is insane,” said one producer, who asked that his identity not be revealed because he must still do business with Viterra.

“I can unload there faster than any other elevator…. If anything, they should have been expanding it.”

The Eyebrow facility is serviced by Canadian Pacific Railway and handles primarily lentils, durum and spring wheat.

Growers in the area said they had heard rumours that the elevator would be converted to a pulse-only facility, but news of its closure came as a surprise to many.

The prospect of hauling grain an extra 100 kilometres or more will not sit well with farmers in the area, said the grower.

He said highways in the area are already in poor shape and will be damaged even further by heavy truck traffic.

Highway 42 between Eyebrow and Moose Jaw is being rebuilt but it will remain a secondary highway that’s not well suited to heavy trucks.

After the Eyebrow closure, some growers could conceivably haul their grain up to 100 km north to a delivery point at Strongfield, only to see it loaded on hopper cars and hauled by rail back past Eyebrow.

“If you look at a map … it’s easy to see why this closure makes no sense,” the grower said.

“They could easily spend some money and turn it into a viable  plant.”

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