The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), and ultimately farmers, face a big demurrage bill from parked ships on the West Coast waiting for grain because of poor Canadian Pacific Railway service.
“We are working as hard as we can and meeting with the highest levels of CP to try to improve their service because if their service doesn’t improve in the next while it will be very difficult to market the total crop that we intend to market this year,” District 10 CWB director Bill Toews told farmers at a meeting here March 15.
CP has moved 25 per cent less CWB grain so far this crop year versus a year ago, CWB chief operating officer Ward Weisensel told the meeting.
Meanwhile, Canadian National Railway (CN) has increased its shipments.
As of Feb. 20 the CWB had received 7.01 million tonnes of wheat – two million tonnes less than by the same date a year ago.
“This number is behind where we planned to be at this particular stage in the crop year,” Weisensel said.
“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. “We hope we can turn this situation around because we have a lot of wheat, a lot of wheat to move, before the end of the crop year. But again our intention is to sell it – to take it all – through until the end of the crop year.”
Bad weather and avalanches have disrupted CP’s service. Those are legitimate causes for delays, Weisensel said. The problem is CP’s slow recovery.
“I think they have underresourced on the locomotive side and the crew side and that has been part of the discussion we’ve been having with them,” he said. “We need to get this program back up to way beyond where we’ve been at.”
In an interview earlier this month a CP official said the grain industry indicated early in the crop year there would be less grain shipped in 2011-12.
“I have a hard time with that because everyone knows the October through March period we’re always pushing West Coast capacity to the maximum almost regardless of the crop (size),” Weisensel said in an interview. “It’s a critical period from a marketing perspective.” [email protected]
– WARD WEISENSEL