Grain movement good, but behind last year’s pace

Deliveries through elevator system in early fall are largely dependent on weather

Western Canadian farmers have been delivering grain at a brisk pace over the past few weeks.

And so far, grain companies and railway operators have been handling those deliveries without any hiccups, according to the company that monitors the performance of the grain handling system.

“What we’re seeing are some really good volumes going through the system,” said Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corp.

“There’s been lots of grain moving through the country elevator system, some good unload counts (at port) … and they’re turning vessels around in Vancouver in around 12 days, which — all things considered — is really good.

“We just hope that the other shoe doesn’t drop any time soon.”

Despite what some observers considered a slow start to the 2017-18 delivery season, grain volumes and velocities through the country elevator system have picked up over the past month or so.

Deliveries through the prairie elevator system exceeded a million tonnes a week for most of September.

Average weekly deliveries were in the neighbourhood of 1.2 million tonnes.

Through the first eight weeks of the 2017-18 crop year, total shipments of western Canadian grain from export terminals in Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Thunder Bay were listed at 4.6 million tonnes, down five percent from 2016-17 and nine percent off the five-year average.

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Relative to last year’s pace, year-to-date exports through Week 8 were down 20 percent at Thunder Bay and down five percent at Prince Rupert.

Vancouver’s exports were one percent ahead of last year’s pace and two percent ahead of the five-year average.

Deliveries through the country elevator system during September and October are largely dependent on the weather.

Grain movements often slow down during periods of favourable harvest weather, Hemmes said.

With harvest nearing completion in many parts of Western Canada, growers will have more time to turn their attention to marketing and hauling grain, he added.

Hemmes said hopper car supplies at elevator locations on Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway networks have been reasonably good.

So far in the 2017-18 crop year, CP has been supplying on time roughly 91 percent of the hopper cars ordered for bulk grain shipments to Vancouver, according to data from the Ag Transport Coalition.

CN’s on-time car order fulfillment for bulk Vancouver grain was listed at 83 percent.

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Stocks of grain in the country elevator system and at port terminals have been relatively high during the past few weeks, and unused capacity is limited.

Stocks in store at country elevators were in the range of 3.8 to four million tonnes during the latter half of September, occupying 81 to 83 percent of available working capacity.

Those numbers are high, Hemmes said, but they don’t necessarily point to supply chain problems.

“What we look at more than available working capacity is the gap between volumes in the country elevator system and at port,” Hemmes said.

If stocks at both ends of the system are moving predictably and following a similar pattern, that suggests the system is working well.

Hemmes said vessel lineups at Vancouver are in a normal range.

“So far, everything looks good, knock on wood.”

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  • Jasbir singh Sahni

    Dear Sir
    I am in the field of warehousing of food grains since 1980 as warehousing Expert. Here warehousing means ,procurement in the grains market,it’s transportation to godowns (open and covered) ,it’s storage,preservation and disposal to destinations by trains and trucks .Before procurement we have made strategy,how to tackle maximum arrivals.
    We marked the centres where it needed. Then we requested Railway Departments to supply Wheat Specials so we may despatch it from grains market directly to avoid storage charges and time .then from our storage point on FIFA rule (first come first out policy ) with this way by day night planning,there would no glut in the grains market ,because here we stored (98%) in bags remaining in Silos .
    Before procurement we have to arrange Gunny bags ,crates ,and insecticides and polythene covers ,nets etc .Above all pretreatment of godowns to avoid any kind of infestation. I am working as Preservation Expert since 1980 .
    We suffered heavy losses due to lack of preservation every year,but Canada is a advance country.i think this issue not creat any problem.
    I think this is the best way to tackle this problem of storage without effecting Farmers p,we should have a balance between In ward and out wards movement .
    Rest I don’t know storage methods in Canada if God blessed me to work there ,then I would see what to do .
    Regards