Ready to Build Back Better

  • National Newswatch

Build Back Better. It's a catchy slogan – and a good idea. Throughout the pandemic, the Canadian agriculture and food industry has shown it is more than up to the task. But without the right practices, policies and infrastructure in place, it is becoming increasingly clear Canada will not be able to fully realize its potential to strengthen our economy through agri-trade in a post COVID-19 world.

There is no doubt that, to most Canadians, 2021 looks a lot different than 2020. At this time last year, COVID-19 was just making its way to our shores. Today, the country is looking ahead to mass vaccinations and the promise of a semblance of normalcy. However, from a transportation perspective, it's “déjà vu all over again”. From labour disruptions, to weather delays, derailments, and massive amounts of congestion in the containerized supply chain, not a lot has changed. And that has left our industry with a serious problem. The recent announcements from Canada's rail carriers on moving record volumes of grain is something to celebrate, but there's more to being a global leader and outcompeting other origins than volume.

 For Canadian agri-food products to command the premiums they deserve, the timeliness of rail car spotting on the prairies each week must improve. We are now thirty weeks into the grain calendar year. Canada's railways have fallen short by 1300 or more orders on a weekly basis for twenty-six of those weeks, rising to more than 2000 orders per week on five separate occasions. Simply put, timing is everything.  When rail cars aren't spotted to match orders, there's a ripple effect across the entire supply chain. Uncertainty at the point of origin forces every player downstream to adjust plans, leading to delays and congestion at the port, not to mention demurrage and container detention fees. Protracted delays lead to contract penalties and, over time, the very real risk of cancelled contracts. Building Back Better means we don't just learn how to better manage through these conditions, it means we're committed to eliminating them; delivering more grain while building a brand promise of consistent and reliable delivery.