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Grain elevators feeling effects of B.C. flooding

Grain elevators feeling effects of B.C. flooding

Some farmers are being asked to delay grain delivery

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Grain elevators across the Prairies are facing challenges brought on by the aftermath of the flooding in British Columbia.

“Elevators with shipments going into the Vancouver corridor or the Prince Rupert corridor are being impacted,” Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, told “Any grain destined for Vancouver all intents and purposes is halted.”

The weather situation in B.C. has created a backlog on rail lines.

Trains on tracks are waiting to get through, trains spotted for loading at an elevator are still waiting and loaded cars are sitting on tracks waiting for opportunities to travel to the ports.

About 600 rail cars moved last week. Much fewer than a normal year.

“That is just a fraction of the inventory that is in place,” Tom Steve, general manager of the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission, told CJWW. On the other end of it, you have ships that are in position at English Bay or at the Port of Vancouver that are waiting to be loaded. There is a serious backlog that is unfolding in the country.”

And because of the backlog, elevators are filling up.

Farmers can still deliver grain but space is at a premium.

“Elevators will continue to take farmer deliveries until they can no longer accept grain,” Sobkowich said. “There’s still room at some elevators but others are already full to the rafters.”

And rerouting grain east isn’t an option when trying to access Asian markets.

“If you think about a mill in Indonesia or somewhere in the Pacific Rim, it doesn’t work to get them the product through the Atlantic Ocean,” he said. “That’s where the premium markets are for farmers.”

And some Prairie farmers have already been asked to reschedule delivery.

“Farmers with contracts locked in will get paid,” he said. “It’s just a matter of when they get paid. For grain that’s unpriced there could be opportunities in other corridors. Farmers should keep their ears to the ground to see what elevators are offering.”

In Prince Rupert, because there’s only one rail line, some goods are being transported based on priority.

And sometimes grain isn’t high on that list, Sobkowich said.

“It’s a CN line and there’s high competition for that line whether that’s coal or other containers,” he said.

This backlog is likely to remain for the next while.

Too many trains and cars are stopped to get everything moving quickly, Sobkowich said.

“It’ll be months before we’re up to speed that is normally on those lines,” he said. “And then who knows how long it’ll be before we clear those backlogs. Everything is going to be delayed.”

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