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Moving Grain: River Traffic Up as Harvest Nears Completion

Ernst Undesser
From USDA November 17, 2017

Moving Grain: River Traffic Up as Harvest Nears Completion

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

River Traffic Up as Harvest Nears Completion

During the last half of November, barge movements typically increase as the corn and soybean harvests near completion and barges depart from the northern most reaches of the soon-to-be-closed Upper Mississippi River because of winter ice.

For the week ending November 11, 695 grain barges passed downbound on the locking sections of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers, for a total tonnage of 1.1 million tons. This was the highest weekly amount of barges on the locking portions of the river system since July.

Recent high water levels and repair work at Ohio River Locks and Dam (L&D) 52 have caused significant delays for downbound grain barges, as well as upbound empty barges on the Ohio River. Barge traffic will likely continue at high seasonal levels as navigation conditions at L&D 52 have improved.

In addition, as of November 12, the soybean harvest is 93 percent complete as compared to the 2012-2016 average of 95 percent) and the corn harvest crop is 83 percent completed as compared to a 91 percent average.

Study Analyzes Economic Impact of Grain Exports

A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA)—and conducted by Informa Economics—looked at the economic benefits of grain exports on the U.S. economy. According to the study, U.S. grain and grain products exports were worth $18.9 billion, supported $55.5 billion in economic output, and were linked to 262,000 jobs in 2015.

The study examined the economic contributions to each State and 52 congressional districts from exports of corn, barley, sorghum, ethanol, distiller’s dried grains, and other grain products. The study showed that every $1 of grain exports supported an additional $2.19 in business sales, and every job created by these exports supported an additional 4.7 jobs in the United States.

According to NCGA President and North Dakota farmer, Kevin Skunes, “By analyzing the impacts to individual States and congressional districts, constituents and legislators alike can better understand how their local communities benefit from and depend on exports.”

Grain Inspections Continue to Decrease

For the week ending November 9, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.88 million metric tons (mmt), down 13 percent from the previous week, down 28 percent from the same time last year, and 18 percent below the 3-year average.

Total inspections of corn and soybeans were down 18 and 14 percent, respectively, from the previous week. Wheat inspections, however, increased 6 percent from the past week. Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 6 percent from the past week, and Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections dropped 41 percent. Outstanding (unshipped) export sales continued to increase for wheat and corn, but sales decreased for soybeans.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending November 2, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 35.9 mmt, down 16 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .782 mmt, up 125 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were 2.37 mmt, up 191 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales were 1.16 mmt for the same period, down 42 percent from the previous week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 23,281 grain carloads for the week ending November 4, up 3 percent from the previous week, down 19 percent from last year, and down 8 percent from the 3-year average.

Average November shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $175 below tariff for the week ending November 9, up $70 from last week, and $188 lower than last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.

Barge

For the week ending November 11, barge grain movements totaled 1,103,032 tons, 14 percent higher than the previous week, and down 16 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending November 11, 695 grain barges moved down river, up 17 percent from last week. 1,031 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 2 percent from the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending November 9, 40 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 22 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 38 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending November 9, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $43.00 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24.50 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week.

Fuel

During the week ending November 13, average diesel fuel prices increased 3 cents from the previous week to $2.92 per gallon, 47 cents above the same week last year.

Full report.

Ernst Undesser
From USDA November 17, 2017