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AWBC: “Blockades will have serious unintended consequences for farmers”


February 14, 2020
By Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions

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With protests blockading CN rail lines in multiple locations across Canada, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions (AWBC) are urging quick resolution and say that the resulting rail delays will have unintended negative impacts on farmers and the entire agriculture industry. Even a disruption of a few days will cause a massive backlog, with economic losses that are ultimately borne by farmers.

These delays are coming directly in the wake of western Canadian farmers facing devastating harvest conditions, poor grain prices and trade uncertainty. An eight-day CN rail strike in late November, followed by a 10-day cold spell in January, and heavy rains impacting rail movement and the loading of grain vessels at the Port of Vancouver have already hampered grain shipping in western Canada this winter. The blockades are now contributing to these difficulties by affecting the movement of this year’s crop.

“With blockades happening in multiple Canadian locations, farmers will feel immediate effects,” Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair, said. “Delays will result in farmers being unable to deliver their grain, meaning they can’t be paid at least until service resumes. We are still recovering from the harvest from hell and need reliable grain movement in order to get back on track.”

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As a result of the rail delays, cargo ships waiting to export Canada’s trade commodities are also backed up, with 39 ships waiting at the Port of Vancouver and eight more waiting at Prince Rupert as of February 9th.

“As we have learned through past experiences, rail delays cause immediate concerns for Canada’s global customers,” Todd Hames, Alberta Wheat Commission chair, says. “Not only do these bottlenecks hurt farmers’ incomes, but they also hurt Canada’s reputation as a reliable grain supplier. Situations like this put Canada at risk of losing out on export opportunities to our competitors.”