Canadian grain shippers count on rail service to match demand this crop 12 months, though lingering service points from summer time wildfires plus broader community capability considerations are additionally on their minds.
Grain stakeholders anticipate decrease volumes this crop 12 months, which runs from Aug. 1 to July 31, 2022, as this summer time’s drought in western Canada will doubtless decrease crop volumes.
The U.S. Division of Agriculture expects Canadian wheat manufacturing to be its lowest since 2010-2011, leading to decrease export volumes. USDA additionally anticipates decrease volumes for canola and barley, based on its monthly supply and demand estimates report from last Thursday.
On account of decrease anticipated yields, many grain shippers foresee getting the railcar orders they should ship grain for the home market and for export, particularly for the reason that 2020-2021 crop 12 months that was simply accomplished this previous July broke grain volume records for multiple months for CN and Canadian Pacific.
“Whatever the measurement of the crop, we need to transfer as a lot of it from harvest till March or April as we are able to, since that’s when our patrons demand Canadian grains and once we can command the best premium,” mentioned Wade Sobkowich, government director for the Western Grain Elevator Association.
However grain shippers are watching how speed limit restrictions that shall be in place till Oct. 31 will have an effect on how a lot export quantity makes it to the western ports. Transport Canada slowed prepare speeds on strains between British Columbia communities Kamloops and Boston Bar and between Kamloops and North Bend over considerations that prepare operations might set off wildfires.
The restrictions, which started in July, name for Class I trains to cut back prepare speeds to 25 mph in areas the place monitor speeds usually are between 26 mph and 35 mph. Practice should additionally decelerate by 10 mph if the permitted prepare pace is larger than 36 mph. These restrictions apply when the air temperature is 86 to 90 levels Fahrenheit and the fireplace hazard for the world is “excessive.”
Rail service in August continues to be recovering after wildfires from earlier this summer time curtailed operations briefly, based on Greg Northey, vp of company affairs for Pulse Canada.
“Rail service returning to regular is all the time a constant theme, whether or not it is because of strikes or climate occasions. We’ll all the time proceed to observe it, and we want long-term planning to make sure predictable and dependable rail service always, together with after a disruption,” Northey mentioned.
The continued container scarcity can also be a priority since between 30% and 40% of Pulse Canada’s members ship grain by way of containers, he mentioned.
“The dearth of containers stays probably the most acute obstacle to exports,” Northey mentioned.
Though grain shippers count on decrease volumes this fall, shippers are additionally conserving their eye out on the place there is perhaps potential long-term community constraints, in order that the rail trade and its stakeholders might be able to deal with the place and the way to repair potential capability shortfalls.
As an illustration, though the railway community was capable of deal with document volumes of grain and grain merchandise in 2020-2021, that was partly as a result of different commodities had been transferring fewer volumes.
“Within the final 12 months, we imagine that grain exports have been the beneficiary of decreased demand from different sectors and from a really delicate winter that has restricted weather-related disruptions,” Sobkowich mentioned. “Based on Port of Vancouver statistics, the 2020 delivery season noticed very sharp reductions in port exercise for the automotive, coal and overseas breakbulk sectors. Conversely, grain shipments grew by 28% for the 12 months.”
He continued, “What will occur as issues return to regular and different sectors throttle up once more? What is going to occur in 2021-22 if we’ve a traditional winter? What if we’ve a railway work stoppage, or if blockades flare up once more?”
Canadian Pacific’s And CN’s Grain Service Expectations
“CP is well-positioned to maneuver grain within the 2021–2022 crop 12 months. We count on to maneuver in extra of 30 MMT [million metric tons] of grain and grain merchandise this crop 12 months, which is aligned with final 12 months’s forecast and the volumes we transported,” CP (NYSE: CP) mentioned in a 2021-2022 grain plan that it submitted to Transport Canada late final month.
CP famous that climate situations, comparable to above-average temperatures and chronic dryness earlier this summer time, could translate into decrease crop volumes in 2021-2022.
Nonetheless, the railway plans to produce 6,000-grain hopper vehicles to nation elevators every week from August by mid-December after which from April to July, topic to market demand. CP additionally plans to produce 4,350-grain hopper vehicles within the winter months when the Port of Thunder Bay is closed. Total, CP plans to make obtainable 1,050 to 1,150 locomotives, roughly 15,500-grain hopper vehicles, and three,950 to 4,050 prepare and engine workers all through the 2021–2022 crop 12 months, CP mentioned.
CP has greater than 4,600 owned and leased high-capacity hopper vehicles in energetic service, with a further 1,600 hopper vehicles anticipated by the tip of 2021.
The railway mentioned additionally it is ready to deal with quantity surges, whether or not they happen on CP’s or on others’ networks.
“Inside purpose, CP is well-positioned to accommodate surprising surges in volumes brought on by challenges skilled by different rail carriers, non-rail members within the provide chain or adversarial climate,” CP mentioned. “Whereas CP doesn’t at the moment count on any explicit provide chain challenges, we notice that community service disruptions don’t happen in a vacuum. Quite, they’re the product of a number of components all through the availability chain. In consequence, CP will proceed to work with our interchange carriers and different members within the provide chain to keep up interchange fluidity, optimize loading and billing, and steadiness automobile cycle flows.”
CN (NYSE: CNI) additionally expects decrease grain volumes in 2021-2022. But it surely says it’s persevering with to make investments to broaden community capability. It just lately acquired 1,000 extra high-capacity hopper vehicles as a part of a broader three-year renewal program to amass 3,500 hopper vehicles. CN hopes to have 6,000 high-capacity hopper vehicles by the point CN completes its hopper automobile modernization program.
“CN expects to maneuver, over the course of the 2021-2022 crop 12 months, 25.5 to twenty-eight.0 MMT of grain and processed grain merchandise by way of carload. This forecast is within the vary of the previous three crop years however under 2020-2021 ranges because of a cloth discount in complete obtainable grain provides 12 months over 12 months. Grain volumes moved utilizing intermodal tools are along with this stage of projected shipments,” CN mentioned.
Among the many capital enhancements, CN has taken to broaden western grain community capability are lengthy siding additions on the Edmonton-Prince Rupert hall; multiyear capability enhancements to help site visitors on the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert; two new export terminals on the Port of Vancouver; and 150 miles of double-tracking since 2018.
CN shall be updating its 2021-2022 grain plan month-to-month.