“Cautiously optimistic” is how Jim McCarthy, President and CEO of the North American Millers Association, described the sentiments of the oat millers following the difficult year in 2013-14 when US processors were unable to get to Canadian oats. In a panel moderated by Robynne Anderson, the long term impacts on the oat business were discussed. It was acknowledged that the failure of the grain transportation system will mean that European oats will have a foothold in the market for years to come. However, the situation has seen more steady shipments that have helped catch up the shortfalls from last winter. Lorne Boundy of Paterson Grain provided a frank assessment of the challenges oats face to provide the margins for grain handlers and the need to get more access to freight services. It is clear handlers, railways and millers will need to think about capacity and efficiency gains.
Bruce McFadden of Quorum Corporation, Canada’s Grain Monitor, explained that data is starting to flow from the new initiatives to monitor shipments to southern corridors. Monthly data will soon be available, but it will lack destination specific data that allows proper assessment of rail car turnarounds. The Prairie Oat Growers Association will be calling vigorously for increased transparency on the numbers and inclusion of additional data so the Grain Monitor can do its work.