U.S. Grain Transportation: Projected Wheat, Corn Exports Lowered
In its March World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, USDA projected wheat exports to reach 1,025 million bushels (mbu)—25 mbu or 2 percent lower than last month’s estimate.
USDA lowered the corn export projection to 825 mbu—75 mbu or 8 percent lower than last month, 46.5 percent lower than last year, and 57 percent lower than the 5-year average. Lower trade estimates mainly reflect the slow pace of sales and shipments. Corn feed use was raised 100 mbu due to the expansion of the poultry sector.
Higher domestic use could imply stronger short-term demand for trucking services. According to USDA modal share analysis, between 2006 and 2010, trucks moved, on average, 76 percent of domestically-used corn; rail moved an average of 23 percent, and barge share was only about 1 percent. In contrast, during the same period, barges moved an average of 53 percent of export-bound corn, rail moved 38 percent, and trucks accounted for only 9 percent.
Snapshots by Sector
U.S. railroads originated 17,289 carloads of grain during the week ending March 2, up 2 percent from last week, down 22 percent from last year, and 24 percent lower than the 3-year average.
During the week ending March 7, average March non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $6.50 below tariff, up $8.50 from last week, and $2.50 lower than last year. Average shuttle bids/offers were $31.50 below tariff, up $24 from last week, and $84.50 higher than last year.
During the week ending March 9, barge grain movements totaled 560,315 tons, 66 percent higher than the previous week but 5.6 percent lower than the same period last year.
During the week ending March 9, 376 grain barges moved down river, up 72.5 percent from last week; 380 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 24.5 percent from the previous week.
During the week ending March 7, 34 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 3 percent more than the same period last year. Forty vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 5 percent more than the same period last year.
During the week ending March 8, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $48 per mt, up 2 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $25 per mt, unchanged from the previous week.
During the week ending March 11, U.S. average diesel fuel prices were down 4 cents from the previous week at $4.09 per gallon—4 cents lower than the same week last year.
Containerized Grain Exports
Containerized grain exports to Asia in December totaled more than 40,000 20-foot equivalent units—30 percent lower than the previous year, 4 percent lower than the 4-year average, but 2 percent higher than November movements.
The ICE Dec and Mar contracts gave back 160 and 87 points on the week, respectively, as last week’s inversion between the two contracts gave way to partial carry. Well,