The University of Calgary's, Simpson Centre - School of Public Policy webinar this week focused on "Connecting Canadian Farmers to SE Asia Markets: Now and in the future."
In order to look at that topic, Quorum Corporation gave an overview of Canada's grain handling and transportation sector.
Quorum Corporation, the Federal Government's Grain Monitor, has been monitoring Canadian grain handling and transportation for the last 20 years.
President Mark Hemmes says over the years we've seen some dramatic changes in our grain handling system on the Prairies.
"Our total grain supply has continued to increase, to the point where in the last eight years, we're averaging about 81 million metric tons per year. If we continue with the growth rate that we've seen in the last 10, we're easily going to surpass 100 million metric tons in grain supply by the time we get to 2030."
With that in mind, Canadian grain companies and railways have been working on improving capacity and efficiency.
The biggest change has been the move from the 3500 small wooden elevators to the 400 high throughput grain facilities many of which now have loop tracks.
He says another big change has been the carrying capacity of the grain vessels coming into port.
"The average vessel leaving the West Coast of Canada for that matter was weighing out at about 28 to 30,000 tons per vessel. But in the last few years, we've seen that increased significantly to the point where the average vessel weighs out at or over 50,000 tonnes."
Over the last 15 years, we've seen a shift in our grain export destinations, the big buyer of Canadian grain in the early '80s was the former Soviet Union, Eastern block countries and Europe.
Hemmes says to feed that market we moved grain through our east coast port at Thunder Bay, but over the years we've seen those countries become more self-sufficient.
"Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific countries, as well as Central and South America, have become big customers and that flow of traffic is going off the west coast. And that's why we've seen so much capital investment going into West Coast ports to handle that growth in business."
He notes volumes at Vancouver and Prince Rupert ports have essentially doubled and tripled in the last few years.