Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

Strong Western Export Demand Continues as Vancouver exports exceed 2019 pace

Rail

The Agriculture Transport Coalition (ATC) reported that CN and CP supplied a combined 93% of hopper cars ordered in grain week 42, slightly below last week's performance of 98%. Canadian service levels by railway were reported at 89% for CN and 96% for CP. For the province of Alberta, combined service levels were reported at 95%, with CN reported at 98% and CP reported at 92%.

In a year over year comparison for week 42 hopper car supply and demand, Canadian elevators ordered 9,564 hopper cars versus 7,310. This represents an ask for an additional 2,254 cars of grain to be moved, or approximately 22 additional trains.

Demand for western movement to both Prince Rupert and Vancouver remains strong. Of the 8,852 rail cars supplied in week 42, 5,013 were directed to bulk shipments in Vancouver and 1,291 were directed to bulk shipments in Prince Rupert. Shipments of grain East to Thunder Bay represented 1,923 rail cars for week 42. 

Trucking

Country deliveries for week 42 continued to drop, and remain in line with the 3-year average for this time period. On average, country deliveries fall during this time period as the seeding of the new crop takes precedent over grain deliveries. While road restrictions are beginning to be relaxed, deliveries are not expected to increase until a significant portion of farmers complete seeding. Lower country deliveries and continued greater than average availability of empty rail hoppers is drawing down country elevator stocks. For week 42, country elevator stocks dropped to 29% continuing a trend in line with normal operating capacities.

Ports

Despite consistent delivery of grain by rail, grain stocks in port terminals decreased to 66% in week 42, compared to 73% last week. This capacity is slightly below average for this time of year.

Total Week 42 port unloads were above average for this time of year. The overall shortfall relative to last crop year has now been eliminated, with year?over?year unloads in a positive range. This year over year increase has largely been due to the significant volume directed at Thunder Bay. West coast port unload volumes continue to improve. Year over year, Vancouver unloads are now 36,102 tonnes ahead, while Prince Rupert is 530,602 tonnes behind.

West coast vessel lineups for week 43 now sit at 31 ships, compared to 37 ships last week. Since last week, waiting vessels lineup for Vancouver has decreased by 5 to 24 ships, while vessel lineups in Prince Rupert increased by 1 to 7 ships. The week over week change in average time in port for ships in Vancouver has increased from 11.1 days to 11.2 days, and remained unchanged in Prince Rupert at 7.1 days. Generally, a vessel time in port of under 12 days is desired.

Limited sailings of container ships continue to create access issues to empty containers and space on ships for containerized grain exports.  For the year to date, the Port of Vancouver reports that 59 sailings have been cancelled due to the market disruptions from COVID-19. However, CN has removed a moratorium on container movement into

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