Hauling grain is job number one – Winnipeg Free Press
The Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, promised her government and Canada’s grain producers to be “everyone on deck” to bring as much Canadian grain as possible to developing countries. She said farmers there “want to step in” to help ease the global food shortage resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Growing grain is only part of the challenge. It has to be transported to market and, in Canada, grain has to be moved by rail. It is hoped that Ms. Bibeau’s optimistic promise will be heard by the two major railroads, CN and CP, which are essential links in transporting grain from elevators to port ships.
Since Ms. Bibeau made her pledge last month, there has been encouraging international development. It was announced on July 22 that a four-month agreement has been signed between Russia and Ukraine, releasing the export of some 22 million tonnes of grain and other agricultural products stuck in seaports. Black following the Russian invasion.
The combination of a blockade of Ukrainian ports and Western sanctions on Moscow has raised fears of famine in countries like Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia that rely on grain from Ukraine and Russia, which historically produce about a third wheat traded on world markets. , and about a quarter of the world’s barley.
Canada, which produces about 12% of the world’s wheat and exports to about 70 countries, can help ease fears of a global food shortage, provided the grain can get to the countries that need it.
The historical relationship between farmers and the railroads on which they depend has at times been difficult. Producers accused the railways of providing poor service by providing far fewer container cars than needed. Farmers and grain companies want to export grain in the fall and winter when prices are highest, and grain left in elevators during this peak time for exports means less revenue.
A campaign called Canada’s Ready was launched last week by a coalition of producer organizations — Pulse Canada, Cereals Canada, the Canola Council and the Western Grain Elevator Association. The goal is to raise awareness of challenges in Canada’s grain logistics system, with a particular focus on ways in which the railways could address issues that producers describe as systemic.
The campaign seeks greater transparency regarding how the railways plan to move grain, based on information from the grain sector. An official points out that CN’s plan last year for the week of Feb. 13-20 was to supply 1,240 cars, but only 550 cars were actually available.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council, 49 million people in 43 countries are experiencing emergency levels of hunger.
Producers are also looking for information on collective agreements within CN and CP. At least 12 different contracts with railroad employees have expired or will soon expire, and CN laid off 1,800 employees in 2021 – factors that are raising fears of service disruptions.
CN and CP are both announcing later this month that they will release their annual plans for how they will meet the needs of grain producers. Companies should take into account producers’ demands for more transparency and more reliable transport. If they don’t, complaints of poor service should be taken to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which regulates Canada’s railways.
More than ever, a world facing food shortages depends on grain producers, including Canada. And, in turn, Canadian producers depend on the railways.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council, 49 million people in 43 countries are experiencing emergency levels of hunger, “one step away from starvation.”
“There is enough food for everyone in the world,” he said. “The problem is distribution, and it’s deeply tied to the war in Ukraine.”