The estimated 15.7 million tonnes of western grain carry-over is almost four million tonnes less than first forecast, thanks to record grain movement between April 1 and July 31, says Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corporation, the firm hired by the federal government to monitor the western grain transportation system.
“When it’s all said and done the four western ports alone will have moved 31 million tonnes,” Hemmes said in an interview Sept. 19 from his Edmonton office. “It’s phenomenal.
“We’ve never seen that kind of volume with that kind of consistency in the movement I think in the history of the Canadian grain-handling and transportation system. It was an incredible feat.”
Some observers credit the government in March ordering the railways to each move 500,000 tonnes of grain a week under threat of fines. But the railways, which blamed the grain backlog on the coldest winter in 100 years, say it was due to better weather.
Last crop year grain companies and railways were at each other’s throats and relations have not improved, Hemmes said.
“The acrimony and the bad feelings between everybody has them yelling at each other and me,” he said.
“We can do a lot of things but you can’t legislate people to be nice and talk to one another.”
Communications will be critical this crop year, Hemmes said. The crop is smaller, but quality is more varied.
“When you’ve got quality issues like we’ve got right now you need more segregation, more blending and it’s a burden on the logistics system so it needs really close co-ordination and communication,” he said.
“The thing I’m hearing from some of the grain companies right now is the railways have slowed down the car supply but I don’t think the orders have gone down at all. The orders are still strong. People are looking for and waiting for cars.”