Spring seeding starts to show impact as country grain stocks start to fall to average levels, railway and port operations strong
The Agriculture Transport Coalition (ATC) reported that CN and CP supplied a combined 97% of hopper cars ordered in grain week 40, slightly above last week’s performance of 95%.
In a year over year comparison for week 40, Canadian elevators ordered 10,756 hopper cars which represents an ask for an additional 2,481 cars of grain to be moved, or approximately 24 additional trains. Demand for western movement to both Prince Rupert and Vancouver remains strong.
Of the 10,468 rail cars supplied in week 40, 6,066 were directed to bulk shipments in Vancouver and 1,434 were directed to bulk shipments in Prince Rupert. Shipments of grain East to Thunder Bay represented 2,269 rail cars for week 40.
Country deliveries for week 40 dropped to levels in line with the 3-year average for this time period. On average, country deliveries fall during this time period as the seeding of the new crop takes precedent over grain deliveries. Warmer weather is also resulting in continued road restrictions in some areas. Lower country deliveries and continued availability of empty rail hoppers have started to draw down country elevator stocks. For week 40, country elevator stocks dropped to 70% continuing a trend of returning to normal operating capacities.
Despite consistent delivery of grain by rail, grain stocks in port terminals decreased to 76% in week 40, compared to 80% last week. This capacity remains greater than average for this time of year.
Total Week 40 port unloads continued to perform above average for this time of year. The overall shortfall relative to last crop year has now been eliminated, with year‐over‐year unloads in a positive range. This year over year increase has largely been due to the significant volume directed at Thunder Bay. West coast port unload volumes continue to improve, but remain behind volumes moved last year. Year over year, Vancouver unloads are 227,351 tonnes behind and Prince Rupert is 515,519 tonnes behind.
West coast vessel lineups for week 41 now sit at 31 ships, compared to 33 ships last week. Since last week, waiting vessels lineup for Vancouver has decreased by 3 to 26 ships, while vessel lineups in Prince Rupert increased by 1 to 5 ships. The week over week change in average time in port for ships in Vancouver has increased from 10.0 days to 11.1 days, and decreased in Prince Rupert from 11.00 days to 9.4 days. Generally, a vessel time in port of under 12 days is desired.
Limited sailings of container ships continue to create access issues to empty containers and space on ships for containerized grain exports. For the year to date, the Port of Vancouver reports that 50 sailings have been cancelled due to the market disruptions from COVID-19.