Railway officials ‘blew it big time,’ says analyst

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Cold weather, a new marketing environment and a huge crop all affected western Canadian grain movement this winter, says Mike Jubinville, a markets analyst and president of ProFarmer Canada.


However, that doesn’t excuse poor performance by the railways, he told farmers at a Farm Credit Canada event in Moose Jaw March 4.


He said the railways were not adequately prepared for the new reality.


The system worked almost flawlessly in 2012, he said.


“This year, holy moly.”


He said the CWB’s single desk system allowed it sell a regular amount of grain almost every month, which in turn allowed the railways to plan accordingly. Last summer the grain trade was aggressive in heavy forward contracting.


“I don’t think there was enough of the left hand knowing what the right hand was doing,” he said.


Logistics were not properly worked out. 


He pointed to the most recent quarterly statement from Canadian National Railway that said it had sidelined 400 locomotives and leased some to BNSF in the United States.


He said pulling power wasn’t adequate to begin with, and the problem was compounded by the addition of crude oil, which makes more money per unit train than grain does.


He said railway executives have been hiding because “they know they blew it big time.”


Pressure from politicians and farm organizations has to be kept up to achieve the long-term solution the industry needs, Jubinville said.


“We can’t afford to be doing this every other year that we happen to have a big crop and cold weather.”