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Good news for Canadian grains: high demand, rail backlog cleared

April 7, 2020  By Top Crop Manager

Canadian grain is in high demand as shippers try to feed a growing appetite from mills and governments seeking to shore up staple reserves amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grain shipments at the Port of Thunder Bay in Ontario doubled year over year in March, with vessels loading 200,000 tonnes last week and higher volumes expected to continue, the Chamber of Marine Commerce said.

Richardson International Ltd., Canada’s largest grain handler, says demand for wheat and durum at flour mills and pasta plants around the world is on the rise as customers stock up on staples, partly in preparation for extended lockdowns triggered by steps taken to contain the novel coronavirus.


Wade Sobkowich, who heads the Western Grain Elevator Association, said strong demand in Europe and Africa is a welcome follow to a tough year that saw rail blockades, mudslides, labour action and a late harvest depress traffic of bulk goods.

CN Rail clears blockade backlog with record grain movement

Chief operating officer Rob Reilly says the 2.62 million tonnes of grain is a 6.1 per cent increase from 2017, the previous record for March.

The numbers come as the country’s largest railroad operator works to clear a backlog built up after a month of blockades erected across the country in February in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.

CN grain director David Przednowek says high demand for flour and durum from mills during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely drive high grain volumes in the coming months as producers seek to shore up staple reserves.

Reilly says overall container shipments are down after China slashed production as part of its quarantine measures, though domestic container movement is on the rise as Canadian distributors and customers bulk up on supplies while contending with a trucking shortage.


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