Blockades affecting railway performance have led to increasing grain stocks over recent weeks. The Canadian Grain Commission's week 28 data shows stocks increasing for the fourth week to 4.6205 million metric tons (mmt), up 928,600 metric tons (mt) or 25% from the same week in 2018-19 and 20% above the three-year average.
When stocks by province are considered, stocks in Manitoba remain reasonable at 784,100 mt, 4% above the same week in 2018-19, while this volume represents 75.2% of the estimated working capacity used by Quorum Corporation in weekly calculations. Stocks in Saskatchewan are pegged at 2.3556 mmt, up 24% from last year and 89.5% of estimated working capacity, while Alberta stocks are reported at 1.451 mmt, up 42% from a year ago or 102.9% of estimated working capacity. British Columbia stocks are also extremely tight, estimated at 29,500 mt, up 75.6% from last year and representing 110.5% of estimated working capacity. On average, country stocks are reported at a level of 90.4% of estimated working capacity and should be considered tight.
According to the AG Transport Coalition's Daily Pipeline Status, the number of hopper cars being cancelled continues to grow. As of Feb. 19, a reported 1,900 cars were cancelled by CN in week 28, while as of Feb. 20, this count rose closer to 2,300 cars. This is in addition to 10,683 cars cancelled as of week 27 by CN and a further 32 cars cancelled by CP Rail. The report indicates that additional cars will be cancelled in week 29.
Stocks at the four major western ports were reported at 1.2748 mmt, up slightly from the previous week and slightly higher than the same date in 2018-19, although is 15% below the three-year average.
Weekly export data reflects challenges, with 544,300 mt exported from licensed facilities in week 28, the second-lowest weekly shipments reported this crop year, next to the 491,000 mt shipped in week 3. With the number of vessels on the waiting list growing to a count of 50, this highlights the challenge that are currently faced.
Yet another blockade is reported on the CP mainline near Kamloops, B.C., on Feb. 21, while both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and native leaders are holding independent press conferences on Friday afternoon. The prime minister used his strongest language to date, stating the barricades must come down now and the laws must be obeyed after all possibilities for dialogue to date have failed.
Despite the backlogs felt across the grain system, cash prices such as spring wheat and canola have changed little over the course of the month. A quick look at pdq.ca prices for the three zones of Alberta where stocks are the tightest of the three prairie provinces as of Feb. 20 shows higher prices for canola over the month and slightly lower prices for spring wheat, largely tied to moves in futures with little change in basis.
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Cliff Jamieson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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