Grain World: AGT books eventful 2019

Saskatoon | MarketsFarm — This year has been a watershed year for AGT Food and Ingredients, the company’s CEO Murad Al-Katib told the Grain World conference in Saskatoon.

AGT was delisted from the TSX earlier in 2019, as Al-Katib moved to take the company private after 12 years of being publicly traded. Its new ownership group is comprised of Fairfax Financial Holdings owning 60 per cent of the shares, AGT with 28 and Point North Capital, 12. Al-Katib said he’s the largest single shareholder running the company.

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Also earlier this year, AGT opened a new rail consolidation centre at Delisle, Sask., southwest of Saskatoon.

“It’s what we consider to be the largest processing unit for grains, maybe in the country,” Al-Katib said during his presentation Thursday.

All of AGT’s short-line rail traffic winds up in Delisle, where AGT has eight spurs of four kilometres each. The grain cleaning operation there can process a 10,000-tonne train in less than 12 hours, he explained.

“It cleans to less than 0.5 per cent foreign material,” Al-Katib said.

In adding up all of AGT’s rail lines, he said the company has become the third largest railway in Canada, behind only Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways.

The company’s Churchill port facility was put back into operation, a year after it and the rail line were acquired from its previous owners. Al-Katib said approximately 150,000 tonnes of grains were shipped through the port in 2019, with the goal 300,000 tonnes for 2020. In subsequent years, he wants Churchill’s capacity boosted to 500,000 tonnes per year.

“With icebreakers we can stretch Churchill’s shipping season from June to the end of November,” Al-Katib said.

Among the cargo vessels leaving the port were three loaded with durum and one with lentils, destined to the Port of Mersin in southern Turkey, a voyage that takes three weeks, he said.

The last of the four departed Churchill on Nov. 7, which Al-Katib said was very likely the latest a grain vessel left the northern Manitoba port.

“That was the day we were told if we didn’t pull out by three o’clock, we might not make the ice in the strait. We left at 11 in the morning,” he said.

— Glen Hallick reports for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.

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