Irish cattle chow down on Canadian corn

Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:31am EST
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By Rod Nickel and Valerie Parent

WINNIPEG, Manitoba/PARIS Jan 29 (Reuters) - Canada's bountiful corn harvest is flowing across the Atlantic into feed rations for Ireland's cattle herd, even as exporters struggle to move other crops through the bottlenecked Canadian transportation system.

Canada, which was a net corn importer until recent years, reaped a record 14.2-million tonne corn crop in 2013. Most of the crop stays where it is grown in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba to fuel ethanol plants run by Husky Energy Inc, GreenField Ethanol and Suncor Energy Inc.

But from August through December, the first five months of Canada's 2013/14 crop marketing year, exporters shipped about 185,000 tonnes of corn, with nearly three-quarters of that headed for Ireland, according to the Canadian Grain Commission.

"With the (corn) price increase over the past few years, we've seen acres go up in Canada, and we've gone to (being) an exporter now," said Mark Cumberbatch, corn trader at private Canadian grain handler Parrish & Heimbecker.

Most Canadian corn sales to Ireland are for feeding cattle in the world's fifth-largest beef exporter, he said.

Canada's total corn exports this year are already large compared with volumes in most years of the past decade. They could fall short, however, of 2012/13 shipments, which totaled more than 600,000 tonnes due to brisk sales to the United States after its severe drought.

Corn is abundant this year, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasting record global production.

Freight rates for moving crop across the Atlantic have been competitive at times with rates from the Black Sea region, giving Canadian sales to Europe an extra push, Cumberbatch said. Greater corn supplies than the domestic market can handle have also added fuel to exports, he said.   Continued...