Cargill shutters Indiana port grain elevator

CHICAGO (Reuters) -Global commodities trader Cargill Inc closed its grain elevator in Portage, Indiana, on Tuesday, according to the company’s website.

FILE PHOTO: A Cargill logo is pictured on the Provimi Kliba and Protector animal nutrition factory in Lucens, Switzerland, September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

The elevator, which handled soybeans, corn and wheat, borders Lake Michigan and has a storage capacity of 7.2 million bushels, according to the Grain and Feed Association of Indiana.

In an email statement on Thursday, Cargill said it decided not to renew its lease for the facility because of “several different contributing factors which include the current and projected market environment.”

The company did not elaborate further.

Cargill will relinquish control of the facility to the Ports of Indiana as of June 1, and port officials are looking for a new operator, said Ryan McCoy, port director for Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor.

“We have received multiple inquiries from companies interested in expanding the facility,” said McCoy, who worked at Cargill’s terminal for 10 years.

Cargill said it notified its customers of the change in September, and is “working with customers on an individual basis to ensure they continue to have access to markets for their grain.”

Cargill’s bids for corn and soybeans delivered to the elevator had been well below bids at nearby competitors in recent weeks, effectively shutting off movement of grain to the facility as it prepared for closing. It had not posted a bid for soft red winter wheat since August.

The Cargill facility for corn closest to the Portage site is in Hammond, Indiana, about 19 miles away.

For soybeans, the closest Cargill facility is in Morris, Illinois, or Decatur, Michigan. Both are about 69 miles from Portage. The Decatur elevator also accepts wheat.

Cargill said it is retaining current employees in Burns Harbor “through the duration of operations,” and looking to help find them employment opportunities at other Cargill locations.

The Ports of Indiana originally financed the construction of Cargill’s export terminal in 1979, McCoy said. Through the years, he said, Cargill has employed 8 to 12 full-time workers at the facility, and as many as 15 dockworkers per day from the International Longshoremen’s Association to load vessels.

Additional reporting by P.J. Huffstutter; Editing by Mark Porter and Nick Zieminski