Canada Markets

A Look at Week 32 Grain Stocks

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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Grain movement into Thunder Bay has picked up during recent weeks. While overall grain stocks remain low when compared to recent years, the wheat stocks instore Thunder Bay, just ahead of spring opening, are the largest seen in three years.

As indicated by the Grain Marketing Program Weekly Performance Update, the planned reopening dates for the St. Lawrence Seaway is March 22 for the Montreal/Lake Ontario section, March 24 for the Welland Canal and March 25 for the Sault Ste. Marie Locks.

The Port of Thunder Bay is promoting its 2022 Top Hats Contest to guess arrival dates for the first lake vessel and ocean-going vessel to arrive in the port. In 2021, the Top Hat award for the first ocean vessel to arrive was to the Captain of the M.V. Federal Cedar, which arrived at the Richardson terminal to load on April 4, loading 12,000 metric tons of Canada Western Red Spring Wheat for shipment to Puerto Rico. This is reported as the earliest arrival for a salt-water vessel in five years.

In the months ahead, movement through the port will face a tug-of-war between tight prairie grain supplies and growing off-shore demand linked to tight grain stocks and changing trade patterns due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Canadian Grain Commission's week 32 statistics, covering activity for the week ending March 13, shows 33,900 metric tons of grain unloaded at Thunder Bay in week 32, with 22,800 mt of wheat and 10,900 mt of durum accounting for close to the total volume. This volume has increased for a third week and compares to the previous four-week average of 7,400 mt/week. When this volume is compared to past week 32 activity, we see the current week is the largest week 32 unloads seen in five years, while the five-year average for this week is 15,220 mt.

As seen on the attached chart, total grain stocks total 442,400 mt in week 32, down 28.7% from the same week last year and 25.3% lower than the five-year average for this week. By commodity, the wheat volume instore is 259,400 mt, accounting for 59% of the total volume and is the largest seen in three years on this week. The Thunder Bay stocks of all-wheat, or wheat and durum combined is 310,000 mt, also the largest in three years, just 9% lower than the five-year average.

The AG Transport Coalition reported that week 33 Thunder Bay unloads were "uneven" and falling to half of the level achieved in the previous week. This may have been linked to a slowing in service by CP Rail in advance of this week's lockout of union staff.

The Coalition's week 34 data as of March 22 shows a daily average of 41 cars/day unloading in Thunder Bay during the first few days of the shipping week, up from an average of 28 per day in the week prior, although daily activity remains viewed as low and potentially still tied to CP's efforts to restore service back to desirable levels.

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