Prairie grain continued to flow through the Ontario Port of Thunder Bay at a brisk pace last month, buoyed by strong export demand for wheat and a rail system that’s been moving grain at a record pace since early March.
Chris Heikkinen, finance and communications co-ordinator with the Thunder Bay Port Authority, said the port recorded another strong month for grain shipments in May.
Total grain shipments exceeded 1.1 million tonnes last month, up from 900,000 tonnes in May of 2019.
Since the 2020 shipping season began in late March, year-to-date grain shipments at the port have surpassed 2.3 million tonnes, compared to 1.78 million tonnes at the same time last year, the port authority said.
That’s a year-over-year increase of more than 30 percent as of May 31.
In a June 5 news release, Heikkinen said several factors have led to robust movement of prairie wheat and canola through the port since the shipping season opened March 26.
Some countries are stockpiling grain in response to the CODIV-19 pandemic, which has increased the demand for Canadian farm commodities.
Global grain supplies have also been affected by drought in Australia and export restrictions in Russia, the port said.
Australia, Russia, and Canada are among the world’s top exporters of wheat and Canada had large carryover stocks from the 2019 crop, which was the country’s second largest on record.
The COVID pandemic has also disrupted the flow other commodities such as consumer goods, crude oil and lumber, freeing up additional rail capacity for grain.
Both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways have reported grain movement records in recent weeks. Strong grain shipments are anticipated to continue through the summer.
Annual grain shipments through the Port of Thunder Bay have varied over the past decade, ranging from a low of 5.4 million tonnes in 2013 to a high of more than 8.3 million tonnes in 2014.
Total shipments last year came in at 7.9 million.
According to port statistics, a total of 24 foreign vessels arrived at port during the month of May, up from 16 in May of 2019.