Canada’s transportation minister doesn’t think there will be a problem with rail shipments of grain this year.
“CP and CN are equipped to handle the large grain harvested this year,” said Marc Garneau, the federal minister of transport.
“Everything I’ve seen and heard from both of them leads me to believe they won’t have any issues.”
Garneau was joined by federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay at a meeting in Saskatoon Thursday. They spoke with more than a dozen farm groups to help develop a long-term transportation plan for Canada.
“We have put together reports to fix the transportation of grain problem,” MacAulay said. “I’m sure down the road we will create a much better transportation system in this country.”
The meeting comes as the second-largest crop on record is getting ready to hit rail cars. While some farmers said they were worried because of past issues moving grain, others felt confident their needs will be met.
“I don’t actually think it will be a problem,” said Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.
“The other commodities, such as oil and potash, aren’t taking up the cars anymore, which was the main problem back in 2013.”
It’s not all smooth sailing, however; according to Hall, there are 225,000 fewer rail cars on tracks in Canada year over year.
“CN is usually on time. CP is a concern because they usually aren’t on time,” Hall said. “If CP isn’t moving the grain on time, it affects the bottom line for farmers.”
This year, Canadian National Railway launched a new online site for information on its weekly western Canadian grain movements. Canadian Pacific Railway said it’s ready to move the large yield, but added the grain has been delayed due to wet weather contributing to a late harvest.
CP president Keith Creel said Wednesday the company has increased its grain train lengths about 11 per cent in the past quarter, and aims to add another 10 cars for a total 134 to boost efficiency.
Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said he spoke with the federal transport minister about the impact rail has for the province.
“I personally talked about the fact that up to 90 per cent of our ag produce is exported and it was $15.3 billion last year and we are landlocked, totally,” Stewart said.
“There’s only one way to get it out of here – and that’s by rail.”
– with files from Canadian Press