Nutrien asks Canada to halt rail strike

Allan potash mine in Saskatchewan. (Image courtesy of Nutrien)

Nutrien Ltd., the world’s biggest crop-nutrient producer, wants the Canadian government to stop a strike at one of the nation’s largest railways because the disruption could potentially lead to smaller harvests.

About 3,000 workers at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. voted in favor of going on strike March 16 if a collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached, according to their union. That would impact Nutrien’s ability to move potash, nitrogen and other crop chemicals to retail locations across Canada just ahead of spring planting, the company said in an email. 

Without such products, harvests could be reduced when food prices are soaring. The fertilizer supply chain is still “reeling” from impacts of everything from Covid-19 to sanctions on Belarus and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Nutrien said. Crop nutrient prices are at all-time highs amid concerns about shortfalls.

“The global food supply is already stretched and cannot afford further negative impacts at this time,” the company said Wednesday in a statement. “We would be very disappointed to see a labor dispute have such a significant impact on global agricultural supply chains, and consequently, we would hope that the Canadian government will consider intervening to avert another transportation crisis.”

A disruption in rail service will have “serious implications” as global food security concerns are heightened and there is strong demand for Canadian potash, said Natashia Stinka, spokeswoman for Canpotex, a joint venture that markets sales outside North America for Nutrien and Mosaic Co. 

“Our overseas partners are counting on Canpotex to deliver the potash they need to sustain global food production,” Stinka said Thursday. “We are doing what we can, but reliable rail service is vital.”

(By Jen Skerritt)

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