Clearly, those increases in population will not come in all countries at once.
Viterra, Canada’s largest grain handler, also owned partially by the Canada Pension Plan, understands these trends in world demand. From its early beginnings as a farmer co-operative, Viterra strived to see that farmers received their fair share of profits and buyers received the best quality grain available.
That deep-rooted desire to provide the best quality foodstuffs to customers and best possible service to farmers has not changed, and it will not change as the former farmer-cooperative pursues new markets worldwide with the speed and efficiency of its upgraded Pacific Terminal in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Our goal is to create the most efficient port terminal in Canada with the unprecedented capability to process a diverse range of commodities,” said Kyle Jeworski, president of Viterra. “Some of these projects include the installation of new bulk weighers, upgrades to shipping conveyors and rotary cleaners, and improved electrical and dust control systems. The most significant project is the installation of a new ship loader system, which is expected to increase shipping capacity and allow for the loading of post-Panamax vessels.”
Jeworski said the new loading system will give the terminal a capacity of up to 6 million tonnes annually.
The opening of the expanded Panama Canal was one factor that prompted the upgrade of the terminal, he said.
“When you’re looking at current reality you want to make sure that you’re designing something that will accommodate the demand of the marketplace,” he said. “And, we believe there’s going to continue to be demand for Post-Panamax size vessels.”
Headquartered in Regina, Saskatchewan, Viterra stresses a commitment to agriculture that goes back nearly 100 years, partnering with farmers to market and move crops to areas of need around the world.
Originally constructed in the 1920s, the Pacific Terminal is comprised of the original National Harbours Board facility and the original Alberta Pacific Grain Co. Viterra assumed ownership in 2007. Pacific Terminal Pacific Basin (Lapointe Pier and Jetty) represents more than 90 years of shipping operations.
The project is aimed at modernizing the terminal with enhancements that will increase shipping throughput and capacity, as well as improve current handling and processing procedures.
“Our goal is to create the most efficient port terminal in Canada with unprecedented capability for processing a diverse range of commodities,” Jeworski said. “This is a significant investment spanning several projects that will enhance our strategic position on the West coast, and our ability to continue meeting the needs of our customers globally.”
Key components of projects include:
- Pacific Basin dredging and expansion of ship loading basin to accommodate Panamax class vessels throughout new ship loading area.
- Enlargement of the basin to accommodate vessels up to 245 meters.
- Construction of new marine structures to support front traveling rail and fender systems.
- Construction of new mooring dolphins.
- Installation of new covered 72-inch wide yard conveyor to feed the new traveling New Cleveland ship loader.
“Canada has a large land mass,” Jeworski said. “We have very sophisticated farmers. We have excellent adoption of technology, whether that is farm equipment or varietal development. I think both of those are important, but the thing is we have to export. We’re in an area of surplus. So, if farmers grow more that doesn’t always mean there are markets for more.”
In an interview with World Grain, Jeworski said that despite there being only so many consumers in the world, “we’re seeing consumer growth.”
“We’re seeing population growth,” he said. “We’re seeing protein growth. We’re seeing a number of things that are supporting that growth. The challenge we always have in Canada is that we don’t produce grain in isolation to other parts of the world. At the same time that we are increasing production, so are parts like Brazil, Argentina and Russia.
“I think we have a very good situation in that our farmers are sophisticated, they are willing to adopt new technology. I think we are ahead, but I think it’s important to recognize that other areas are working to increase production levels. Competition isn’t bad all the time; it drives efficiency. But I agree, we do have a fantastic farmer base.”
Asked if the collapse of the Canadian Wheat Board played a role in deciding to move ahead with its investments in the Pacific Terminal, he said, “I think the benefit of that is there is (now) full transparency to the farmer in terms of market signals, which allow farmers to make an informed decision about what they’re planting, so they have very good market signals. When you talk about supply and demand, that’s absolutely key.
“The markets will signal that there’s a shortage of something in the form of price, and farmers will plant to match that supply. I think that is absolutely key and that has gone very well. The farmer has full market signals. It tells the farmer from a cash flow perspective. So, from a company perspective such as ours, it allows us, when we’re looking at capital plans such as Pacific, to have full visibility of all of the crops and all of the different crop mixes and other business drivers to make a good, informed business case.”
Jeworski said he has seen companies making new investments in Western Canada’s logistics system or have announced major decisions in the grain handling network and feels the industry is in good shape.
Viterra, for example, has invested in new facilities in Northern Alberta and Western Saskatchewan and, at the time, was about to open a new facility south of Winnipeg.
On the pulse crop side, the company recently opened a new lentil crushing plant in Southern Alberta. The Tempest plant has a capacity of 11,000 tonnes when full and has a 25-car rail spot. Facility operations manager David Morris said it can clean 50 to 60 tonnes per hour.
The plant, about 30 kilometers east of Lethbridge, has been refurbished and expanded to handle pulse crops. Jeworski said when it opens the plant will complement the company’s existing Alberta assets consisting of 17 elevators, 6 special processing plants and more than 300 employees.
“We have bean processing facilities in Taber and Bow Island, we have a mustard processing facility in Warner, we have high-throughput elevators in Grassy Lake and in Lethbridge, so it really complements what we’re doing here,” Jeworski said. “Logistics have gone very well. I don’t think we talk enough of logistics. Logistics have gone very well post-CWB changes.”
Asked what attributes encourages Viterra to patronize their facilities, Jeworski said, “When I look at it, we’ve been operating for almost 100 years. When I look at that period of time, you have to continue to earn farmers’ business. That’s our objective day in and day out, to earn farmers’ business. I think people trust Viterra.”