Slow corn movement out of Ontario weighs heavily on planned deliveries, basis

Federal Schelde-Port of Johnstown The Federal Schelde dropping off a load of salt at the Port of Johnstown. Photo supplied by the Port of Johnstown, Flickr.

Jammed-full ports in Ontario are impacting basis and possible longer-term options for cash sales in the province, as laker traffic costs increase and tight freight access puts the squeeze on storage space along the St. Lawrence.

Jeff Barlow, farmer from near Hamilton, Ont., and director with Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), doesn’t usually ever have to worry about delivery space, as he farms within hauling distance of three major shippers: G3, Parrish & Heimbecker, and Richardson’s.

But this year, that’s different.

“It’s probably the first time in recent memory that I can think of [no bids for corn]. If you have corn or beans to move right now in the Hamilton area even with three major exporters, [there’s] no bid for corn,” Barlow says, as of Friday, November 11. It’s the first time this has happened in at least 20 years, he says.

Barlow says he’s being told that Lakers are harder to come by right now and that lake freight costs are more expensive. Combined with a very rapid harvest progression across most of Ontario, and some elevators are completely maxed out on storage. Even outside of the Hamilton area, elevators and ports are quite full. The Port of Johnstown (Prescott) in the east is also near capacity. (Story continues below video)

The slow movement also comes at a time when southern trade routes are running aground — literally — as the Mississippi River hits historic lows. Discussion in the U.S. has already turned to discussing pushing soybeans up through the St. Lawrence Seaway as an alternative.

The bottom line is, if farmers haven’t got a plan of where corn is destined to go off the combine now, they may be in a pickle in the next week or so. Barlow adds that some of the ethanol and pet food markets in New York state have been an option in the past, but right now are also well-stocked.

“I feel as though whatever’s been bought has been bought, like there may be a little bit of movement here and there, that pops up, you’d have to be pretty on on the ball to get it,” Barlow says.

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