Canada grain companies call transport pact a 'first step'

by Emily Wilson
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Canadian grain company spokesmen say they generally are pleased with the agreement reached with the Canadian Wheat Board over grain handling and transportation. The Western Grain Elevators Association, the Inland Terminal Association of Canada and the CWB announced the pact recently after more than a year of intense negotiations between the groups.

Parties to the agreement, citing sensitive commercial issues, declined to provide details. But all said the agreement laid the groundwork for a more "commercial" transportation and handling system.

"Several significant initiatives — from a farmer-based system of car awards to an improved tendering process — have been incorporated in the deal," the CWB said in its release.

Ed Guest, executive director of the WGEA, said the agreement would allow "clarity of operations" for all parties involved in the handling and transportation of CWB grains. One area in particular pertains to the accountability and responsibility with established financial consequences for failure to perform.

But Guest noted that the agreement fell short of what had been recommended by Justice Estey in his 1998 report on Canada’s grain handling and transportation system. Nor does it fully reflect the need to create a more commercial and competitive system for moving grain in western Canada, as called for in the government’s May 2000 policy statement, he added.

Saskatchewan Wheat Pool officials said the agreement would strengthen the company’s "ability to capture freight incentives, streamline costs and improve operational efficiencies."