Grain companies that are blaming slow grain movement from port on a backlog of railway cars are feeding farmers a line, says the president of the Grain Workers Union in Vancouver.
“There is no rail car backlog,” Gerry Gault told the Farming for Profit conference in Moose Jaw.
The slow grain movement issue exists simply because the grain companies refuse to co-operate and share grain in storage.
“You can bring in a train with 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes of grain but that’s not enough. These ships need 55,000 tonnes.”
When the Canadian Wheat Board controlled grain movement logistics in the harbour, the ship loading would load the 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes and move to other terminals until it had a full load and head out of port.
Now that private grain companies with different ownership interests in the five Vancouver grain terminals control the logistics, the ship will take on a partial load, head out to anchor and return for more grain when the company they deal with has more shipped in by rail.
“I don’t know what the wheat board did in marketing but essentially doing away with the wheat board is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” Gault said.
Even in the port of Prince Rupert with one terminal and multiple owners, there is no sharing of contracts.
“Richardson will not tell Viterra they owe Voter 20,000 tonnes.”
Gault said the privatization of export grain testing, with two and now three companies, has lowered the standards of Canadian grain testing and quality.
And he has seen shipments of canola that graded number three make first grade on the ship exporting it.
“I'm sure Voter was honest and told you it made three.”
Railways aren’t blameless, according to Gault.
Ever since the wheat board ended and the terminal convinced the grain workers to be available 24-7 without overtime, Gault says the grain rail car availability has fallen in priority behind oil cars and containers.
“When the wheat board was here, grain cars were the number one priority. Now they’re number eight.”
Four of the five grain terminals operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week but run only 14 shifts compared with 15 in the Monday to Friday operations that used to load ships.
Ron Walter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org