CP’s west coast grain volume hits monthly record in October

Canadian Pacific Railway says it moved a record amount of western Canadian grain to export position in Vancouver last month.

In a Nov. 7 news release, CP says it shipped a record 15,865 car loads of prairie grain to west coast ports in October, surpassing the company’s previous monthly record of 15,449 car loads set in March.

Total western Canadian grain movements in the month were up 3.9 percent over last year, just off the record set in May 2014.

“I am proud of the CP team and applaud the efforts and early success of our supply chain partners as the crop season begins to accelerate into the colder months,” said president Keith Creel.

“We continue to focus on providing best-in-class service to our customers and look forward to moving more western Canadian grain to market for the benefit of farmers, shippers and the Canadian economy.”

In the news release, CP also said unwarranted criticism of its performance is counter-productive and serves to undermine Canada’s reputation as a world-class supplier of grain.

CP cited “misleading and inaccurate” grain shipping data published by the Ag Transport Coalition, saying it promotes the notion that an adversarial relationship exists between the railroads and Canada’s farm community.

“The truth is we are partners in driving the western Canadian economy forward,” the CP news release said.

Despite record grain movements in October, CP acknowledged that the company’s total freight volumes fell short of expectations in October.

Crude shipments in particular were down sharply, representing a “significant drag” on the company’s business, said chief financial officer Nadeem Velani, who spoke Nov. 8 at the Stephen’s 2016 Fall Investment Conference in New York.

Velani said freight volumes in November are improving, thanks in part to renewed strength in potash.

Despite record grain shipments to the West Coast in October, poor harvest weather across much of Western Canada has affected grain movements, Velani added.

“Despite an improved supply chain and setting volume records for October in car loads to Vancouver, the wet weather has delayed the uptick in volumes as we expected,” he said.“The crop outlook is pretty much unchanged in terms of the supply and yield, (but) the timing of the movement and the quality are a little bit uncertain at this point still.”

Abundant supplies of low quality grain have complicated grain sourcing efforts in many parts of the Prairies. Blending of high quality grain with lower quality material has also slowed throughput and delayed shipments.

Velani said CP will continue to make adjustments aimed at reducing the company’s operating ratio and maximizing net revenues.

Those adjustments could include longer trains, better use of railway sidings and efficient deployment of railway assets and people.

“It’s a delicate balance,” he said.

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