Stalled exports have caused a growing backlog of ships waiting off B.C.

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Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) are among the agrifood groups calling on the federal government to quickly end the blockade of rail lines by activists supporting a faction in a British Columbia native community.

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association, CropLife Canada, Fertilizer Canada, the Canadian Meat Council, Food Processors of Canada and Food & Consumer Products of Canada are among the groups supporting the wider business community including the Forest Products Association of Canada and the Mining Association of Canada.

At latest count, close to 70 ships are waiting off B.C. ports for cargo and the delay will cost the Canadian shippers mounting demurrage costs.

“These delays caused by the blockades will have immediate, unintended consequences for farmers across the country,” said GGC Chair Jeff Nielsen said. “By cutting us off from our customers, our industry, economy, and, ultimately, our reputation as a reliable shipper are at risk.

“We are an industry that relies on export markets in order to survive and thrive,” Nielsen said. “Without access to these markets via rail, we risk compounding further losses on top of what has already been a harvest from hell.”

A timely resolution is needed in order to get grain back on the trains, he said. “Any delay may result in losing out on critical markets that purchase our grains and oilseeds through our eastern, western and southern corridors.”

CFA President Mary Robinson urged the government “to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, as the impacts and resulting consequences worsen with every day that passes.”

The CN Rail strike last month caused millions of dollars of losses, she said. “There is a huge economic impact that goes along with any rail disruption, but it also affects the delivery of food, medical supplies and energy products that Canadians rely on every day.

“Interruptions in rail service amplifies the stress that farmers and rural communities are under, creating a huge amount of uncertainty in their day-to-day lives.”

While the CFA respects the rights of Canadians to protest, we feel those protests should not endanger the health and livelihoods of other Canadians, especially when they have no part in the issues being protested.”

Farmers have already endured “an incredibly difficult 12 months,” she said. They “have been impacted harshly by destructive weather, unfounded product bans such as canola and the previous rail strike during peak harvest times.”

As farmers do not get paid until their products reach the market, this can have huge financial consequences for Canadian farmers, and creates cash-flow issues as they prepare for the coming year, she said.

“If rail service continues to be blockaded this will result in propane shortages in Eastern Canada. Without access to propane shipments, there is a very real risk of animal welfare issues as many farmers use propane to heat their barns in the winter months.”

A joint statement by more than 30 associations said the business community “supports the economic and social imperative of ensuring Indigenous peoples have the same tools to benefit from economic activity as everyone else. We are anxious to partner with governments to build relationships based on the recognition of Indigenous rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

“We call on your government to work urgently with the provinces and territories, Indigenous leaders and law enforcement authorities to bring an end to the ongoing disruptions and restore normal services without further delay.”

“These illegal blockades inflict serious damage on the economy, leaving countless middle-class jobs at risk, many of them in industries that must get their goods, parts, and ingredients to and from market by rail.

“The damage inflicted on the Canadian economy and on the welfare of all our citizens mounts with each hour that these illegal disruptions are allowed to continue. Each additional day rail lines are disrupted requires three to four days for supply chains to recover. This is why it is imperative that the government act now to get the Canadian economy moving again.”


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