Grain can’t get to ports and farmers are facing propane shortages
By Diego Flammini
The rail blockades in different parts of the country are affecting multiple sectors of the ag industry.
“We’re seeing vessels backed up in Vancouver in port because we can’t get grain to port,” Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, told CTV News on Wednesday.
Nearly 40 ships are backlogged in the Port of Vancouver because of the blockades, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said. And another eight ships were waiting in Prince Rupert.
Farmers will ultimately pay for those delays, Robinson said.
“Demurrage on a vessel sitting in port exceeds probably $30,000 a day, and those costs go directly back to the farmer one way or another,” she said.
Livestock producers are also feeling the effects of the rail blockades.
Farmers who rely on propane to heat livestock barns and keep animals comfortable are having to ration their supplies because of the blockades, Robinson told CTV News.
The protests along railways began on Dec. 31.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in B.C. started their protests in response to the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Other First Nation communities have since blocked rail traffic in Ontario and Eastern Canada in an act of solidarity.
Canadian farmers rely on rail transport to get products to market.
About 94 per cent of Canada’s grain exports travel by rail on an annual basis.
Producers also need rail to receive fertilizer, propane and other inputs as they prepare for spring.
Any further delays because of the rail blockades could put farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
“As we have learned through past experiences, rail delays cause immediate concerns for Canada’s global customers,” Todd Hames, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission, said in a Feb. 12 statement. “Not only do these bottlenecks hurt farmers’ incomes but they also hurt Canada’s reputation as a reliable grain supplier. Situations like this put Canada at risk of losing out on export opportunities to our competitors.”
Chris Young/Canadian Press photo