Led by iron ore, Canadian railway freight volume rises 6.7 percent in April

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 22:56:36 (GMT+3)   |   San Diego

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian railways carried 31.7 million tons of freight in April. This was up 6.7 percent from 29.7 million tons in April 2020 when rail traffic volumes fell to a five-year low due to widespread shutdowns at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

April was the sixth consecutive month of a year-over-year increase, with the overall volume well above the five-year average for this month and second only to the record volume of 33.3 million tons reached in April 2019.

On a year-to-date basis through April, total cargo volume moved by rail amounted to 125.2 million tons, rising 4.6 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. This was the highest cumulative total ever recorded for the January-to-April period.

Non-intermodal rail operations in Canada increased 3.3 percent year over year to 25.1 million tons, with broad-based increases for many commodities. The largest increase was reported in iron ores and concentrates, with loadings rising 13.8 percent (+552,000 tons) in April compared with the same month in 2020, marking the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year growth.

With stimulus packages focused on infrastructure and construction, it appears that additional steel production has increased demand for iron ores. Indeed, according to the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing, the primary metal industry reported a seventh consecutive monthly increase in seasonally adjusted sales during April.

Other significant increases were also reported for metallic waste and scrap, with loadings up 58.3 percent (+110,000 tons) in April from the same period a year ago.

Moderating these increases were large declines in several commodities. Loadings of coal fell 14.0 percent (-433 000 tons) from April 2020, the third consecutive year-over-year decline. While less than the previous month's drop (-18.3 percent), this may reflect weakness in demand for industrial energy in many countries amid a resurgence of COVID-19.

Intermodal loadings—mainly containers—also contributed to the overall growth in April, increasing by 27.8 percent from April 2020 to 3.2 million tons, the second-highest volume for this month on record. This rise followed an even stronger year-over-year growth in March (+37.4 percent) and February (+42.4 percent).

Higher imports of consumer goods for inventory replenishment and to meet demands from online shopping continued to foster this intermodal growth. As reported earlier in Canadian international merchandise trade, Canada's imports of consumer goods posted a year-over-year increase of 18.7 percent in April.

After substantial year-over-year declines for over a year, loadings from American railways rose 17.2 percent to 3.4 million tons in April compared with the same month last year, the highest April traffic level since 2018.

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