CN Rail locomotives are seen Monday, February 23, 2015 in Montreal. Canadian National Railway Co. says it has started to call back most of the 450 workers temporarily laid off last month, when blockades brought the company’s eastern network to a near standstill.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

CN Rail notches record grain movement for March as it clears blockade backlog

High demand for flour and durum from mills during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely drive volumes

Canadian National Railway Co. hit an all-time record for March grain movement.

Chief operating officer Rob Reilly says the 2.62 million tonnes of grain is a 6.1 per cent increase from 2017, the previous record for March.

The numbers come as the country’s largest railroad operator works to clear a backlog built up after a month of blockades erected across the country in February in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.

READ MORE: Caution, with a time limit: How Trudeau’s patience with rail blockades ended

CN grain director David Przednowek says high demand for flour and durum from mills during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely drive high grain volumes in the coming months as producers seek to shore up staple reserves.

Reilly says overall container shipments are down after China slashed production as part of its quarantine measures, though domestic container movement is on the rise as Canadian distributors and customers bulk up on supplies while contending with a trucking shortage.

He says coal is moving well, but that traffic of auto parts and crude oil is decreasing due to factory shutdowns and rock-bottom oil prices.

The Canadian Press

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