CWB seeing record grain movement

(Resource News International) — The Canadian Wheat Board is seeing record grain movement this winter and should be able to continue that pace through the spring, according to a CWB spokesperson.

From October 2008 to February 2009 the CWB cleared a total of 7.7 million tonnes of grain (including wheat, durum, and barley), well above the 10-year average for the period of 6.8 million tonnes, said Maureen Fitzhenry, manager of media relations with the CWB.

In February alone the CWB moved one million tonnes of grain through the West Coast, which compares with the 10-year average of 778,000 tonnes. Weekly railcar unloads in Vancouver came in above 3,800 cars during the past week, Fitzhenry said, well above normals closer to 2,400 to 2,500 cars.

The winter rail program, which moves western Canadian grain to export positions in the east, should also come in above the 10-year average of 8,701 cars (696,080 tonnes) and the previous record of 9,806 cars (784,480 tonnes), she said. But the actual numbers for the 2008-09 winter rail program were not yet available, she added.

Grain movement for the CWB had got off to a slow start in 2008-09 year due to tight carry-in supplies from the previous year. However, once the large new-crop supplies became available, activity picked up considerably in October. “It has been really important that the program be ramped up in the post-harvest period,” Fitzhenry said.

The record pace of grain movement over the winter months had more to do with the transportation system than the CWB itself, she said.

“We want to give credit where credit is due, and the railways have been performing very well for us this year,” she said. “Our presumption is that due to the economic recession, all movement in the other sectors that use rail transportation is considerably reduced, so there are more crews and more cars for grain.

“Not only are we seeing more car availability, but when there are delays because of weather, the railways’ ability to catch up is much better than we’ve seen in the past as well,” Fitzhenry said. Railcar turnaround has been considerably faster than average, she added.

While the October-to-February period is normally the peak time for CWB grain movement, “there is a strong possibility that March will be bigger than February and April will be bigger than March,” said Fitzhenry.

CWB analysts were expecting to see the strong pace continue through June, but added that volatile global market conditions could change that outlook, she said.

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