Monday's DTN Market Matters Blog written by DTN Cash Grains Analyst Mary Kennedy is titled Mother Nature Unkind to Grain Shippers, End Users, Exporters, highlighting the challenges faced in the northern states in moving grain into export positions in the Pacific Northwest. From snow in the Dakotas to snow and ice storms in Portland, shipping in the U.S. has been challenged.
"The pain literally spread from North Dakota to the Pacific Northwest over a two-month period, leaving the railroads to keep playing catch-up. Even though the railroads have been working around the clock to keep service from being delayed as little as possible, Mother Nature keeps pushing them back," said Kennedy.
While areas of the Prairies and the West Coast have shared some of the same weather systems, grain movement has fared well relative to historical data. The Canadian Grain Commission's week 24 data, covering the week ending Jan. 15, reports 609,100 metric tons unloaded at the western port terminals including Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Thunder Bay. This volume is 46,300 mt or 8.2% higher than the same week in 2015/16, while 100,400 mt or 19.7% higher than the five-year average for the week. As seen on the attached chart, the week 24 volume is higher than the previous four-week average for the second-straight week, the first time since week 18, although this takes into account the combined week 21/22 data and the lower volumes over the holiday season.
Year-to-date, 17.010 million metric tons has been unloaded at these facilities, 255,600 mt or 1.5% below the same 24-week period in 2015/16, although is 16.3% or almost 2.4 mmt higher than the five-year average.
Terminal space remains good, with the western terminal inventory reported at 1.0174 mmt, 41% of total capacity and roughly 58.5% of working capacity.
Despite this data, the AG Transport Coalition's most recent Weekly Performance Update for week 23 suggests that railroads remain the weak link. In week 23, CN supplied 80% of the current week orders (hopper cars for loading), shorting shippers by a total of 892 cars. CP supplied 78% of the cars wanted, while shorting shippers by 709 hopper cars.
Year-to-date, CN's unfulfilled shipper demand (outstanding orders plus rejected cars plus railway cancellations plus shortened supply equals 4,805 hopper cars, while CP's unfulfilled shipper demand totals 3,479 cars.
Cliff Jamieson can be reached at email@example.com
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