Rail companies moved record amount of grain in 2018-19 crop year

Herald file photo. Trains line up outside the Kinistino elevator.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers are congratulating both CN Rail and Canadian Pacific for moving record grain hauls during their 2018-19 years.

The 2018-19 grain hauling year ended July 31.

“Congratulations are due to both CP and CN Rail for their record grain hauls in the past year,” the wheat growers said in a press release issued Tuesday.

“ Both rail lines have filed their performance reports to July 31, as well as their 2019 – 2020 grain plan.”

According to CN, they moved 27.8 million metric tonnes (MMT) of bulk and processed grain products in hopper cars, tank and boxcars. That’s a 5.8 per cent improvement over the previous record, set in 2016-17, and a 9.8 per cent increase over last year.

The most recent crop year also included CNs best-ever single month for grain movement in November (2.71 MMT), surpassing its own record in April (2.72 MMT).

Except during the brutal cold seen from the end of January to the end of February, with Saskatchewan’s coldest February in 8 years, CN said they were able to deliver “a consistent and strong grain spotting program.”.

The 2018-19 crop year also saw CN record its second-best shipment volumes for August, September and October.

CN also boasted that six new high throughput elevators opened exclusively on CN lines, with a seventh served by two lines. Four new facilities are still set to be built.

According to the company’s year-end report, of the 30 new high-throughput elevators built, announced or under construction in western Canada since 2015, 21 have been located on CN lines. Additionally, a number of grain export projects served by CN are expected to come into service during this crop year.

CN also said that demand for grain transportation is usually higher from mid-September to mid-April when grain supplies are highest and grain company trading/handling margins are strongest.

Canadian Pacific (CP), meanwhile, moved 26.8 MMT of grain and grain products.

CP said the crop year saw a 2.8 per cent growth over the prior record, set the year prior, and 3.9 per cent more than the three-year average.

“In the past five years, CP has consistently shipped more grain each year,” they said in a press release.

CP set records in April and May 2019 and saw three consecutive months shipping 15,000-plus carloads to the port of Vancouver for the first time. 

CP boasted about its new 8,500-foot high-efficiency product train model, which has construction at five facilities in Canada.

“CP now has nearly 1,500 new high-capacity hopper cars in its fleet, and at year’s end, more than 1,900 of the new hopper cars will be in service,” CP wrote. 

“The fleet will continue to grow in the years ahead, as part of CP’s $500 million commitment to invest in 5,900 new hopper cars. Shippers are able to load up to 10 percent more grain in these cars compared to the older, less-efficient hopper cars they are replacing.”

The Wheat Growers said the records were set despite tough international trade conditions.

“In spite of the agriculture trade disputes that we have around the world, which have suppressed prices, the volume of grain is substantial,” said Daryl Fransoo, Wheat Growers Saskatchewan director. 

“Assuring our export markets that we can move our high-quality grain is crucial to our ongoing success.”

The Wheat Growers credited Bill C-49, which received Royal Assent last May, with helping resolve some of the sector’s transportation challenges. The organization said the levels of grain movement gives them cautious optimism moving forward.