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From Norfolk County to the world

When Norfolk County farmers ship their grain, they may not realize it could end up half way around the world.

Port Colborne
Port Colborne

Within the facility operated by the Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA) are several grain receiving and shipping facilities. HOPA is a non-share held government corporation. Ian Hamilton, HOPA president and CEO, explained the port authority is a government business enterprise reporting to Transport Canada. It is one of 17 port authorities in the country, and one of the top five in size. Oshawa was amalgamated with Hamilton in 2019 and HOPA is the largest port authority on the Great Lakes.

Grains from Norfolk County
Grains from Norfolk County are among those shipped out of Hamilton to a variety of locations around the world.

Agriculture is the biggest growth market for the Hamilton port. Today, it accounts for about 30 per cent of business whereas 10 years ago it was only eight per cent. What is classified as grains by the authority, was the number two commodity going through the port in 2021, and grew 3.8% from 2020. Soybeans are the largest commodity, but corn, wheat and canola are also shipped. These crops combined account for 2.5 million metric tons shipped.

“Global demand for product has increased,” Hamilton said. “We’ve put $300 million in infrastructure in to help.”

Europe is the largest market for grain outbound from Hamilton. North Africa is another significant market while smaller quantities go to China, and South America.

Asked the reason for the increase, Hamilton answered Ontario grains are well regarded around the world, explaining further, “You’ve got growing demand, increased infrastructure to handle it and then you have the final part, which is increased production in the province.”

On top of the grain moving out of Hamilton, there is also fertilizer moving in, which is 12.8% of the product moving through the port. The components of fertilizer are also shipped into Hamilton for mixing and aren’t part of that percentage. Sylvite and Agrico are the major players in the fertilizer segment.

Breaking some of the major players down further, Parrish & Heimbecker Ltd., Canada’s largest Canadian-owned milling company, has a facility in the port. The company imports wheat from western Canada by rail to Thunder Bay, then it’s shipped on boat to Hamilton. The company has a plant in the port to make flour. Richardson International, which is Canada’s largest domestic agri-business, built a grain handling facility in Hamilton in 1998. G3 Canada Ltd., another Canadian grain handler, also has a terminal in Hamilton. Bunge brings in canola from western Canada and has a crushing plant to make canola oil. The company also deals in soybeans. Surocan imports raw ingredients and has a sugar processing facility on port lands.

On the horizon for HOPA is an expansion into Port Colborne. Land has been purchased and a tenant is being sought to lease it. At this point though Hamilton doesn’t foresee establishing another grain handling facility there.

“Our vision is to create more of an integrated network in southern Ontario,” Hamilton said. “We’re looking at growing our presence.” 


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