More pulse acres expected to affect handling dynamics

CNS Canada –– Canadian grain handlers are curious how dynamics and timing in the rail freight sector will be managed in the upcoming season, given an expected boost in pulse crop production .

For the moment, however, Prairie grain movement has dropped to seasonal lows.

This year’s pulse area will likely be the largest on record, according to early estimates from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Special crop-seeded area is expected to see a marginal increase from year-ago levels, according to Statistics Canada data.

Generally, pulse and special crops move early in the year, said Greg Northey, director of industry relations at Pulse Canada.

Pulses and special crops are usually exported around September to December, especially as the transportation industry expects strong forward-contract and new-crop sales.

“We’re very curious to see how the railway sets its capacity for what is projected to be quite a large demand for those pulses and special crops,” Northey said.

Grain production projections are as high as 70 million or 75 million tonnes, said Wade Sobkowich, executive director at the Western Grain Elevator Association, while carryout is estimated in the six million- to eight million-tonne range.

“We’re looking at a large crop, if everything goes well, and we’re going to have to make sure we’re ready for it,” he said.

Communication about the size of production is key to making sure the season goes smoothly, he said.

The current seasonal low in grain handling is seen as likely to continue throughout June, July and August as car orders from the industry decrease and stocks move lower.

The most recent report from the Ag Transport Coalition — of which Pulse Canada is a member — shows weaker grain car demand, down by about 1,000 cars compared with the previous week.

— Jade Markus writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow her at @jade_markus on Twitter.

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