CWB starts running grain early to East Coast

(Resource News International) — The Canadian Wheat Board reports it’s begun the movement of board grains to its East Coast transfer elevators early, to take advantage of unexpected laker vessel availability.

Normally, the CWB implements a winter rail program to transport board grains from Western Canada and already-stored supplies at Thunder Bay, Ont. to eastern export facilities while the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway are closed for the winter from late December to late March.

“The unexpected availability of laker vessels was too good to pass up and a decision was made to move the board grains into the eastern facilities early,” said Maureen Fitzhenry, the CWB’s media relations manager.

The laker vessels became available given the reduced demand to move other commodities, Fitzhenry said.

Fitzhenry confirmed that the CWB has also begun its winter rail program with Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) early as well.

“Our program with CPR began Oct. 27,” she confirmed, noting CPR has moved 680 rail cars to the eastern transfer elevators so far.

The CWB has not begun a winter rail program with Canadian National Railway (CN) yet, with negotiations on that front still continuing.

The winter rail program with CN will depend on the final vessel movement total, she said.

“As a result, the CWB does not have any estimate on what the size of the 2008-09 winter rail program will be at this time,” Fitzhenry said.

Some of the movement of the board grains is also in anticipation of sales being made during the freeze-up of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, she added.

“We know the sales will be made, and we will have the advantage of having the grain in place,” Fitzhenry said.

The CWB’s winter rail program during the 2007-08 crop year totalled 1.069 million tonnes, which was up from 996,725 during 2006-07, Fitzhenry said.

The 2008 navigation season for the Montreal/Lake Ontario section of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system is tentatively scheduled to close around Dec. 24.

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