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Moving Grain: Closed Section of Ohio River Re-Opens with Large Back-Log

Ernst Undesser
From USDA October 19, 2017

Moving Grain: Closed Section of Ohio River Re-Opens with Large Back-Log

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Ohio River Locks and Dam 52 Re-opens with Long Line of Barges Waiting to Transit

On October 16, Ohio River Locks and Dam (L&D) 52 reopened after being closed for about a week due to high water conditions that stopped all traffic on the lower Ohio River. The closure caused a backlog of nearly 60 vessels with over 650 barges of all commodities waiting to transit the site.

As of October 17, barge rates for export grain on the Ohio River increased 12 percent compared to the previous week due, in part, to a reduced availability of upbound empty barges. As of the week ending October 14, the number of upbound empty barges that had transited L&D 52 was only 31, significantly lower than the previous week’s total of 141 upbound empties.

Overall, year-to-date tonnages on the locking sections of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers were 31.8 million tons, about the same as last year at this time, but 31 percent higher than the 5-year average.

Ohio Valley Intermodal Agreement Offers New Opportunity for Ag Shippers

On October 9, Canadian Pacific Railway announced a new partnership with shortline railroad Genesee & Wyoming and Bluegrass Farms of Ohio that will link the Port of Vancouver with Bluegrass Farm’s intermodal facility in the Ohio Valley.

The new service will bring intermodal rail traffic through the Port of Vancouver to Jeffersonville, OH, and offer backhaul opportunities for bulk agricultural products, such as soybeans, to be loaded in the empty containers destined for Asian markets.

In addition, there are seven ethanol plants operating within Ohio, two of which are located within 80 miles of the intermodal facility, which may benefit from new options for shipping dried distillers grains with solubles, a co-product of the ethanol process.

Total Grain Inspections Remain Stable

For the week ending October 12, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from major U.S. export regions reached 2.52 million metric tons (mmt), unchanged from the previous week, down 37 percent from the same time last year, and 11 percent below the 3-year average.

More Grain Commentary


Total inspections of soybeans continued to rise, increasing 19 percent from the previous week. Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections increased 35 percent but Mississippi Gulf inspections decreased 14 percent from the past week.

Rail deliveries of grain to major U.S. ports are increasing as the fall harvest intensifies. Outstanding (unshipped) export sales were up for corn and soybeans but down for wheat.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending October 5, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 34.3 mmt, down 23 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .175 mmt, down 65 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were 1.5 mmt, up 87 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales were 1.7 mmt for the same period, up 70 percent from the previous week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 24,741 grain carloads for the week ending October 7, up 5 percent from the previous week, down 8 percent from last year, and unchanged from the 3-year average.

Average October shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $388 above tariff for the week ending October 12, up $79 from last week, and $863 lower than last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.

Barge

For the week ending October 14, barge grain movements totaled 485,989 tons, 18 percent lower than the previous week, and down 46 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending October 14, 323 grain barges moved down river, down 15 percent from last week. 713 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, up 6 percent from the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending October 12, 31 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 38 percent less than the same period last year. Sixty-one vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 19 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending October 12, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $42.50 per metric ton, 2 percent more than the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24.00 per metric ton, 4 percent more than the previous week.

Fuel

During the week ending October 16, average diesel fuel prices increased 1 cent from the previous week to $2.79 per gallon, 31 cents above the same week last year.

Full report.

Ernst Undesser
From USDA October 19, 2017