Canada produces a significant portion of the world’s grains and legumes and Agrocorp Canada facilitates a large percentage of those exports. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, the firm is a fully owned subsidiary of Agrocorp International Pte., a global trading house based in Singapore, with a long history of purchasing Canadian grains, oilseeds and specialty crops, and marketing them throughout the world. The group’s Canadian operation includes four locations. Outside of Agrocorp Canada’s head office in Vancouver, the business boasts processing plants and offices in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and Innisfail and Falher, Alberta.
In the 2000s, Colin Topham, Agrocorp Canada’s Managing Director, was working for IT&T Trading, a Canadian company that exported Canadian special crops to buyers in Asia, including Agrocorp International. When the financial crisis hit in 2008 and the Principals of the company decided to retire, IT & T merged with Agrocorp in 2009.
“We constructed a facility from the ground up on a greenfield site in Saskatchewan which opened in 2013,” says Kevin Price, Senior Manager. “It is a state-of-the-art, high-speed loading and cleaning facility – built with CN Rail’s support, alongside a CN Railway site.” “Since Agrocorp Processing- Moose Jaw’s opening, we have also acquired two plants in Alberta that we have been working with since we were IT & T,” says Price. Including their bulk vessel program, of which the majority is run out of Singapore, the company exports around 1.5 million metric tons of diverse agri-food and agricultural commodities out of Canada annually. Globally, Agrocorp International handles in excess of 3.5 million tons of agri-food and agricultural commodities per year, including over 1.2 million MT of grains, 650,000 MT Pulses, and 200,000 MT oilseeds.
A diverse product offering
Agrocorp specializes in the export of Canadian pulses and special crops, oil seeds, and cereals. Main products include lentils, peas, wheat, flax, canola, beans, barley, oats and soybeans. Pulses make up a majority of the company’s market share, followed closely by wheat. “Working closely with Canadian farmers has long been an important part of our operations,” notes Price. “We have longstanding relationships with many Canadian producers, but we are always looking to meet new growers and work on building new partnerships.”
These products start with a network of farmers. Then once a deal is reached, arrangements are made to have product delivered in trucks to Agrocorp’s cleaning facilities or one of its third-party processors. “This is where the product is cleaned, graded, and then loaded into railcars, for shipment to the port,” Price elaborates. “At the port, if product is being shipped by container, a trans-loading facility will load the product into ocean containers for shipment overseas. If product is being shipped by bulk vessel, railcars are shipped to one of the grain terminals for direct load into a bulk carrier for shipment overseas.”
Agrocorp Canada’s customers include some local Canadian millers and food distributors. However, the majority of Agrocorp Canada’s products are shipped overseas to buyers in India, China and Turkey, as well as in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Middle East, Columbia, Brazil and North Africa.
“Canada has really become a bread and protein basket for the world’s growing populations, making up around 60 percent of the world’s export market in commodities like peas and lentils,” adds Colin Topham. “Most Canadians don’t realize that Canada is the second largest pulse producing country in the world.” Most buyers are repeat customers and Agrocorp strives to build and maintain strong relationships with them.
A constantly changing market
The commodities market is notoriously brutal. The day-to-day volatility of crop pricing can make it tough to balance a business, especially on an international scale. “That volatility is something we deal with every day.” says Price. “With our global presence, we’ve got a good perspective on where markets are heading and where risks lie.” In addition, Agrocorp works to lock in pricing early on in the season in order to maintain consistency of expenses.
Despite these challenges, Agrocorp is growing. Demand is rising in most markets across the globe and with its highly experienced logistics team, solid quality controls, strong partnerships with suppliers and customers, and firm backing from the rail lines, provinces, Canadian government, and its parent company, Agrocorp continues to pick up market share.
Since Agrocorp Canada’s inception in 2009, Agrocorp International has doubled its global footprint and is now one of the largest shippers of peas and wheat into Asia. “Our increase in plant capacity and increasing presence in South Asia have contributed to an increase in volume,” Price explains. “Also, last year was a great quality crop year that led to a lot more sales. Looking forward, the United Nations has proclaimed 2016 as the ‘International Year of Pulses’ and over the coming years, business is expected to continue to expand.”
“With three processing facilities as of this year, we plan to keep ramping up volume,” Price notes. “At our Moose Jaw location, we are currently undergoing a 10,000 metric ton storage expansion. In Innisfail and Falher, we are also making expansions for both storage and cleaning.”
Agrocorp Canada has also invested heavily in technology at the plant level and put significant resources into software development. “Our plant in Moose Jaw is heavily designed around new technology and our business runs on a Salesforce web based platform that we are constantly customizing,” says Topham. “Salesforce is the backbone behind all our day-to-day operations and many of our strategic planning decisions, covering everything from data entry to operational analysis.”
Along the way, continued investment in training, technology, and improving efficiency and quality controls remain priorities for the business. By maintaining a solid supply chain and working closely with customers, suppliers, and all supply chain partners, Agrocorp International remains a leader in the Canadian pulse and wheat export market.