Feds, grain groups back project to gauge grain traffic flow

Faced with a massive grain backlog on the Prairies, a clutch of grain and oilseed shipper groups and the federal government are putting cash into a project they hope will turn up new efficiencies in the grain supply chain.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz dropped into Winnipeg Tuesday to pledge over $1.5 million from the AgriMarketing program for what’s described as “a multi-sector collaboration project of the pulse, oilseeds and grains industries to improve supply chain efficiency and reliability.”

In all, the involved groups and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada plan to put up over $3.2 million for the project over the next five years.

The AgriMarketing funding is to flow through Pulse Canada, which will lead the initiative, with support also from Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Western Grain Elevators Association and Inland Terminals Association of Canada.

The project, dubbed the Enhancing the Competitiveness of the Agriculture Supply Chain initiative, is to focus on “building industry capacity to obtain more predictable and reliable service, methodically identifying critical opportunities for improvement in the ag supply chain and measuring performance so that all stakeholders know where efforts are best placed, and ultimately, whether or not efforts have resulted in measurable improvements.”

Tuesday’s announcements from the federal government, Pulse Canada and GGC followed a ministerial roundtable meeting Ritz convened with the ag groups, railway officials and grain companies “to discuss the current state of affairs related to the grain backlog,” the GGC said in its release.

Releases from Ritz and the two groups were light on specifics about how the new initiative will operate.

However, “we were satisfied with today’s meeting and the direct dialogue that has begun with the railways and grain companies. We appreciate the federal government’s initiative to provide a forum to voice concerns,” GGC director Brian Otto, representing the Western Barley Growers Association, said in the same release.

“At the meeting we asked the railways what the plan is to alleviate this year’s immediate backlog of grain and ship larger volumes of grains and oilseeds in the future.”

“The new normal”

“Quite simply, we need to work together to achieve a common vision of a supply chain with the capacity to deliver what we produce today and what we expect to produce tomorrow and we need it to perform consistently and reliably so that Canada is viewed worldwide as the preferred supplier — of all commodities,” Pulse Canada chairman Nick Sekulic said in that group’s release.

“This initiative brings organizations representing wheat growers, canola growers, pulse growers and soy growers together with the trade to execute a plan aimed at improving the efficiency of our supply chain.”

“There’s been a lot of talk about transportation and the poor performance of our supply chain this year in particular, but not a lot of action,” WGEA executive director Wade Sobkowich said in GGC’s release. “The industry is coming together to roll up its sleeves and to get to work. The numbers speak for themselves and what we’ve seen isn’t good enough.”

“We need to improve the performance of the grain export economy and logistics are key,” Alberta Wheat Commission general manager Doug Cornell said. “If we are going to continue to enhance production volumes, we need to ensure the supply chain has the capacity to deliver our product consistently and reliably, and this is the focus of this initiative.”

“We want to emphasize to the railways that this is the new normal,” GGC president Gary Stanford added. “Better crop genetics and new crop options along with good weather means there could be more grain to ship next year.”

“We need to get the grain moving because many farmers may not be paid for last year’s harvest until after spring planting,” Manitoba Pulse Growers Association president Kyle Friesen, a GGC director, said in the same release.

“This is already causing lost sales; things need to improve otherwise this will translate into a serious cash flow issue for farmers when they need to buy seed and inputs this spring.” — AGCanada.com Network

Related story:
Undercurrent of frustration pervades at CropSphere, Jan. 16, 2014

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