DTN's latest 360 Poll shows that an overwhelming majority of respondents favored a course of action that would ultimately involve enforcement of laws in order to clear the February disruptions to rail service across the county. Canadian National Railway statements made on March 3 indicate that 10,000 hopper cars were lost in February equating to 1 million metric tons of shipping, while the count is growing with more order cancellations expected to be announced in weeks 30 and 31.
As seen on the attached graphic, poll results show 40% of respondents favored actions of the RCMP to enforce court injunctions in order to end the blockades. A further 47% of respondents chose the use of legislation to make rail shipping an essential service that would lend more support to law enforcement agencies in order to keep the trains moving. The Western Grain Elevator Association lobbied for this addition to the Canada Transportation Act in 2014 and 2015, while this discussion flared up in November as a result of the eight-day CN strike.
In addition, 7% of respondents called for a combination of these two choices, while 6% indicated that they were unsure of how the situation should be resolved. The Canadian public is perhaps more forgiving than those on the front-lines bearing the cost of the blockades. On March 4, Leger Marketing released a survey indicating that 61% of Canadians were dissatisfied with the manner in which the blockades were handled while an earlier Ipsos poll indicated that 62% of respondents were unhappy about the protests.
The previous poll also focused on rail shipping issues. After a second CP Rail derailment east of Saskatoon happened, the federal government responded with a Ministerial Order that would slow the speed limits on trains that carry a significant volume of dangerous goods. The poll question asked readers what they thought of this move.
Responses varied widely across the six choices provided, with a clear lack of consensus surrounding this move. One-third of respondents indicated that they did have concerns that this move would slow commodity movement and could lead to weaker cash basis for grains, although this poll coincided with the rail blockades that started in early February.
A further 22% were concerned that this move would lead to a drag on the Canadian economy. Of the respondents, 23% seemed in favor of the move, with roughly half of these respondents indicating that safety must come first in this decision while the balance felt that it is a reasonable move while investigations are conducted.
After releasing this order, and the release of this poll, the federal government updated the order, dividing the trains into key trains and higher-risk key trains depending on the number of cars of dangerous goods carried, while revising speeds depending on whether it is a metropolitan area, as well as areas where this is or is not train signals. The period of the order was also extended from March 7 to April 1.
Earlier in February, the poll question asked what the largest shift in acres will be in 2020. Of the responses, 46% indicated that canola acres will be trimmed. AAFC's February supply and demand forecasts show the area seeded to canola will fall by close to 450,000 acres to 20.5 million acres, which would be the third annual drop, while the lowest estimated acres in seven years. A lack of exports to China remains a concern for growers, with licensed exports to this country in the first six months of the crop year at 680,000 mt, down 71% from the same period in 2018-19. While it may be anybody's guess when this relationship will be repaired, Australia's ABARES has estimated that Canada will see increased trade with China in the 2022-23 crop year which would be difficult to accept for prairie producers.
The balance of responses were close to equal across three other responses, indicating that pulse acres will climb, oat areas will climb as well as an undecided option. A look at AAFC's February estimates show dry pea and lentil acres close to steady with 2019, while chickpea acres are expected to fall. Oat acres are expected to climb, according to government analysis.
DTN 360 Poll
This week's poll asks which crop you feel presents the greatest downside price-risk in 2020. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this poll, located on your DTN Canada Home Page.
Cliff Jamieson can be reached at email@example.com
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