STAT Communications Ag Market News

Canadian Rail Movement Eased in May

OTTAWA - Jul 28/21 - SNS -- Tonnages carried by Canadian railways eased in May, slipping 0.9% to 29.3 million metric tons (MT), according to Statistics Canada.

While the overall volume was down year over year, it remained close to the five-year average of 30.9 million MT for May.

During the first five months of 2021, the volume of goods moved by rail totalled 154.5 million MT, up 3.5% compared with the same period in 2020, and second only to a record high of 158.2 million MT recorded for these same months in 2019.

The non-intermodal rail operations in Canada accounted for the decline in the overall volume of freight carried, falling 6.1% year over year to 22.9 million MT.

Loadings of certain agricultural and food products also declined in May. Wheat loadings, which have increased year over year each month since May 2020, dipped 19.8% (-540 000 MT) from the same month in 2020. Similarly, loadings of canola dropped 32.7% (-293 000 MT) compared with the same month in 2020?the third consecutive month of decline.

Shipments of iron ores and concentrates experienced a sharp drop of 45.2% (-2.4 million MT) in May, following six consecutive months of substantial year-over-year growth. This drop coincided with a temporary shutdown of iron ores and concentrates production at a Quebec-Labrador mine site in May, due to a labour disruption.

In addition, other metallic ores and concentrates loadings sharply declined by 288 000 MT in May 2021 after two straight months of year-over-year growth in April (+8.4%) and March (+15.1%). Loadings of sulfuric acid were also down 49.2% (-197 000 MT) in May from the same month a year ago.

Partly offsetting these declines were increases for other commodities. Alumina led the pack, with loadings increasing by 514 000 MT -- more than 400 times the volume in May 2020, the highest increase in tonnage ever recorded.

It appears that infrastructure investment to stimulate economic recovery has triggered a rebound in demand for metals. This may be driving the demand for alumina?feedstock for the production of aluminum metals. As reported earlier in the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing, sales in the primary metal industry grew 3.6% to a record level of $4.9 billion in May, driven by higher sales of alumina and aluminum production and processing.

Loadings of potash posted a year-over-year increase after three consecutive months of decline?rising 18.8% (+376 000 MT) from May 2020.

In addition, loadings of fuel oils and crude petroleum rose for the first time after substantial year-over-year declines for over a year, up by 43.8% (+303 000 MT) from the same month a year earlier. Demand for fuel is up, which may signal an economic recovery and an easing of travel restrictions.

Other significant increases were reported for sand, gravel and crushed stone, with loadings surging by 171.4% (+253 000 MT) in May 2021 from the same period in 2020, following a strong gain in April (+65.8%).

Finally, loadings of lumber, which have risen for nine months in a row, were 33.8% (+230 000 MT) above May 2020 levels, reflecting a strong demand from the renovation and housing market.

Intermodal loadings -- mainly containers -- surged by 34.5% to 3.3 million MT in May from the same month in 2020. This is the second-highest volume for this month on record, and comes on the heels of substantial year-over-year increases in April (+27.8%) and March (+38.5%).

Higher imports of consumer goods for inventory replenishment and online shopping continued to create strong demand for intermodal transport. As reported in the Canadian international merchandise trade, Canada's imports of consumer goods experienced a substantial increase of 19.4% year over year in May.

Also helping to offset the decline in commodity traffic this May, freight traffic from the United States remained well above the volume recorded in 2020 for a third consecutive month, rising 14.4% to 3.1 million MT.

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