Canadian Class I railroads boast record grain volumes for June

A photograph of a train traveling through a forest without any leaves on the trees.

The Canadian railways again achieved record grain hauls in June.

CN (NYSE: CNI) said Tuesday it hauled 2.7 million metric tonnes (MMT) of Canadian grain in June, the fourth consecutive month that CN hit a monthly record.

CN also achieved a second-quarter record for grain moved, at 8.15 MMT. For the first six months of this year, the railway has moved 15 MMT.

Year-to-date grain volumes since the start of the 2019-2020 harvest year on Aug. 1, 2019, total 26.9 MMT, compared with 26.5 MMT year-to-date for the same period in 2018-2019. Of that year-to-date total for 2019-2020, 1 MMT was shipped via container as an intermodal shipment.

“From Canadian farmers to port terminals, these achievements are a testament to the strength of our supply chain and its ability to meet the continued strong global demand for grain,” said James Cairns, CN’s senior vice president of the rail centric supply chain. “Strong demand for grain through the second quarter, coupled with strong execution by CN’s dedicated team of railroaders, allowed us to achieve our record quarterly results and for the first half of 2020. Those results come after challenges earlier in the crop year.” 

Meanwhile, competitor Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) also said it experienced its “best-ever quarter” and June for hauling Canadian grain. 

CP moved 2.76 MMT of Canadian grain and grain products in June and 8.41 MMT for the second quarter. The railway also said its year-to-date crop volumes are 8.8% ahead of last year’s pace.

“The collaborative relationships CP has built with its customers, combined with responsive rail service, have contributed to another quarter of record-breaking grain movements,” said Joan Hardy, CP’s vice president of sales and marketing for grain and fertilizers. 

Both railways attribute the record volumes to investments they’ve made to their networks in recent years. CP attributed the record volumes in part to its nearly 2,700 new high-capacity hopper cars, which can carry 15% more volume and 10% more weight compared with older cars, and to its 8,500-foot high-efficiency product train model, which can haul 40% more grain than the 7,000-foot model.

According to the Association of American Railroads, year-to-date Canadian carloads of grain totaled 219,052 for the week ending June 27, a 3.6% drop compared with the same period in 2019. Protesters blocking the western rail network in February in support of a First Nations’ group’s objections over the location of a proposed gas pipeline might have affected year-to-date grain volumes.

Canadian grain carloads over the past year. (SONAR: RTOGR.CAN)

CN will report its second-quarter financial results on July 21, and CP will report its second-quarter results on July 22.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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