How Has Prairie Grain Infrastructure Changed After the Wheat Board?

August 1st, 2016 marked four years since the Western Canadian grain industry underwent a historical change: the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s marketing monopoly.

Each crop year, the Canadian Grain Commission publishes a report entitled “Grain Elevators in Canada.” The report is filled with information on the number of licensed grain handling facilities, who owns them, their capacity, which rail line they’re on and more. If you put together the pieces, you start to get a picture of how the grain industry is structured in the West. The CGC published its latest numbers last week.

So how has the industry changed since the end of the CWB single desk on August 1, 2012?

If we look only at the number of licensed primary elevators, the numbers have dropped slightly. There are eight fewer primary elevators in Western Canada now than in 2012. The total dipped down to 327 in 2014-15, but has since climbed back to 336.

2012 vs 2016 licensed elevators

However, if we look at the storage capacity of these elevators, it has increased by over 17 percent — from a total of just under 6 million tonnes in 2012 to slightly over 7 million in 2016. And this number is still climbing, with several companies building large new facilities.

2012 vs 2016 elevator capacity

Another point worth noting is the increase we’ve seen in licensed grain dealers, as new buyers have arrived on the scene. These are licenses issued to businesses who deal or handle western grain, but don’t necessarily operate an elevator for receiving or storing grain.

2012 vs 2016 license numbers

Following Glencore’s acquisition of Viterra and the CWB’s privatization into G3 Canada, we’ve also seen some changes in who owns primary elevator storage capacity since 2012.

Here’s how the elevator space pie looked in 2012, when Viterra had more than twice as much capacity as Richardson (the number of licensed primary elevators is in brackets):

2012 elevator market share

And in 2016 — G3 Canada, the remnant of the CWB, ranks seventh in capacity:

2016 elevator market shareGoing back beyond 2012, the declining trend in the number of elevators looks to have levelled off since the early 2000s. Meanwhile, primary elevator capacity in the west is rebounding, and is now the highest its been since 1991-92 — 25 years ago.

1962-2016 elevators western canada 2
Click to enlarge. The number of licensed elevators dropped sharply in 1984-85 after the CGC recognized adjacent facilities under the same operator as a single primary elevator, dropping the number of licenses from 2,800 to 1,967.

You can find all the numbers on the CGC’s website.

One thought on “How Has Prairie Grain Infrastructure Changed After the Wheat Board?

  1. There is more space because farmers are getting hosed . The elevators are taking most of the protein values . Last fall they decided they weren’t going to pay passed 14.5 for awhile and eventually selling it with 15.5 protein going straight in their pockets . So of course there is the insentive to get the most grain delivered to their company . At the expense of farmers profits . Making it difficult to produce wheat in many lower production areas . Where hi protein was the money maker .

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