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Wet weather fuels propane demand for grain dryers

Co-op says propane deliveries have hit record highs in Saskatchewan and are elevated elsewhere, although there have not yet been widespread service issues in Manitoba

Propane demand has skyrocketed across the Prairies as more farmers look to their grain dryers, but Manitoba has so far avoided the service crunch.

Demand for drying capacity has seen a sharp rise given the region’s early taste of winter.

In the western Prairies, photos of producers checking standing crops via snowmobile have streamed over social media, along with video of snowy combine passes and increasingly white yards. In Manitoba, producers in the northwest report that harvest has been interrupted since early last month, with producers near Newdale reporting up to 85 per cent of their crop left in the field as of early October.

In Saskatchewan, propane suppliers have been hard pressed to keep up as dryers turn on.

Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) has reported lineups four to six hours long at gas plants in an effort to keep Co-op storage tanks topped.

The record demand has led to service delays, according to Keith Morin, FCL director of propane.

“The issue is not that there is a shortage of propane, but rather the propane demand has risen so drastically for grain drying that the whole industry and system is not able to handle the demand,” Morin said. “We have been so busy it has been impossible to keep up, but our drivers are working as many hours as regulations allow to help the situation.”

Melfort, Sask., has been a hotbed for the problem, he said, with more than 2-1/2 times the propane sold for grain drying last month than any other September total for the last decade.

Manitoba’s propane market has been less problematic thus far. Drivers have been able to keep up with Manitoba deliveries, Morin said, although he noted that peak corn-drying season is still to come.

“In Manitoba alone we’re a little bit above average,” he said. “We’re stretching our resources a little bit, but (we’re) certainly able to keep up.”

There have not been any widespread reports of service delays among farmers.

Pam de Rocquigny, general manager of the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, says she has not heard of any producers struggling to get propane.

FCL is adding temporary resources in anticipation of peak corn season.

“We’ve really accommodated the real peak corn-growing seasons in the past years,” Morin said. “We’re built for it in terms of people and resources, so even though we’re being stretched a little now, we do have some other people coming on board.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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