By Brandy Harrison
CHATHAM — By the time corn started pouring in, elevators were full but not scrambling for more storage space despite handling about 10 per cent more corn than last year, says the market development manager with Great Lakes Grain.
“We didn’t get cramped for space all through harvest. It was pretty seamless,” says Don Kabbes, adding that smaller wheat and soybean crops left more room for the spread-out corn harvest and there was good demand for early sales. “Elevators were virtually swept clean. We started at zero and didn’t have any carry-in inventory anywhere.”
On-farm storage has ballooned to handle at least 50 per cent of the corn crop in the last decade and takes pressure off the 27 elevators that Great Lakes Grains oversees, says Kabbes. This year’s dry, high-quality crop is more easily handled at the farm gate. “I think there is a little more tucked away than in other years.”
But Ontario will have to export corn at some point, which means a lower basis, says Kabbes. “Farmers may lock that bin door closed and not sell that grain. It’s hard to say where the basis will come out.”
With heavier test weight, the Talbotville Cargill elevator was able to take in more grain, says operations manager Bill Maclean. It filled up as usual, but about a month earlier thanks to great harvest weather. “The general mood was so much more positive after last year’s less-than-average crop.”
While at first a smaller wheat crop didn’t reach export basis and tied up space, the whole Parrish and Heimbecker elevator in Kerwood was dedicated to corn this fall.
The elevator was right on track, moving corn early and just getting full as harvest tailed off, says branch manager Calvin Brown.
“We saw a big crop coming and emptied the elevator. We squeaked by but we could have kept shipping to stay ahead of it,” he says, adding they took advantage of secondary storage at another site. “That was our fail safe.”
The Hensall District Co-operative elevator in Mitchell also saw the big crop coming and leveraged the ability to move grain to other co-op elevators, says location manager Dave Louwagie.
Corn yields were a mixed bag, ranging from a modest average of 175 bushels per acre to bin busters of 250 to 270 bu/ac, harvest wrapped four to six weeks earlier than last year, and farmers are likely satisfied with better prices than they saw this summer, says Louwagie. Corn averaged $4.50 per bushel at the Chatham-Kent elevator during November.
“Prices are going in the right direction. Farmers should be pleased with the returns per acre based on yields. It was fun again, compared to a year ago. Everybody was happier and less stressed — both farmers and elevator operators.”