Grain movement to western terminals is lagging average for what may be a combination of reasons, including the late prairie harvest, bottlenecks linked to the tough grain that requires drying, and trade barriers that are slowing overall demand.
The Ag Transport Coalition's Weekly Performance Update for week 10 shows the railways performing well overall, with a reported 96% of the hopper cars wanted spotted for loading in week 10, with both CN and CP hitting the 96% level in the latest week. This compares to 88% reported this week in 2018, and the three-year average of 85.3% for the same week.
The same report shows the overall demand for hopper cars at a cumulative 75,385 as of week 10, which compares with the 79,142 cars in 2018 and the three-year average of 82,722 cars.
When the cumulative receipts of major grains at the four major western ports are totaled (Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Thunder Bay and Churchill) as of week 10, or the week ending October 13, the Canadian Grain Commission reports 6.6503 million metric tons unloaded. This volume is 2.9% higher than the same week in 2018-19 but as shown on the attached chart, is 11.3% below the five-year average. Over the past five years, this volume unloaded, as of week 10, ranged from a low of 6.4598 million metric tons in 2018-19 to a high of 8.223 mmt in the 2014-15 crop year.
Of the major grains, the volume of crops such as wheat (minus 18.2%), oats (minus 5.5%), barley (minus 22.9%), flax (minus 95%) and soybeans (minus 6.8%) trail the year-ago pace of unloads, with the year-over-year percent change in brackets. Crops where unloads exceed the year-ago pace are durum (93.4%), canola (7.6%) and peas (67.5%), with the year-over-year change in brackets.
When compared to the five-year average of volume unloaded in the first 10 weeks of the crop year, only unloads of durum (27.2%), oats (99.2%) and barley (41.2%) are ahead of average, with the percent change over average in brackets. Current unloads of wheat are 17.2% below average, while the unloads of peas are 8.9% behind average.
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Cliff Jamieson can be reached at email@example.com
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