Several Upper Mississippi River Locks Scheduled for Closure to Accommodate Repairs
In order to conduct repairs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has scheduled several lock closures on the Upper Mississippi River during the upcoming winter season. Mississippi River Lock 14 (LeClaire, IA) and Lock 16 (Muscatine, IL) will be closed from December 12 until March 6, 2018.
In addition, Mississippi River Lock 18 (Burlington, IA) will be closed for repairs from December 16 until March 6, 2018. During the winter, much of the Upper Mississippi River is frozen or has ice accumulations that limit or stop barge traffic. Typically, the Corps will use this period to conduct repairs and maintenance to minimize the impact of the closure on barge traffic.
Depending upon the severity of the winter, barge navigation is possible year round in the St. Louis area of the Mississippi River as well as most of the Illinois River.
Wheat Inspections Continue to Increase
For the week ending November 30, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.87 million metric tons (mmt), up 2 percent from the previous week, down 23 percent from the same time last year, and 15 percent below the 3-year average.
Total inspections of wheat continued to increase, up 18 percent from the previous week and 30 percent above the 3-year average. Total soybean inspections were up slightly from the past week, but inspections of corn decreased 8 percent. Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections increased 19 percent from the past week, but Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 7 percent for the same period.
Current outstanding (unshipped) export sales were down for wheat, corn, and soybeans.
Grain News on AgFax
New Rail Project in Brazil
According to the International Railway Journal, the government of the Brazilian state of Paraná presented plans last week for a new freight railway that will improve the flow of agricultural products from the midwest of Brazil through the port of Paranaguá. The line (about 620 miles) will link the region of Dourados in Mato Grosso do Sul with the Paraná coast and could boost the competitiveness of Brazil’s agricultural exports. The project is estimated to cost $3.1 billion.
A September USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN report (#BR 1715) highlighted infrastructure developments in Brazil’s Northern Arc, noting “…Brazil’s infrastructure still lags behind other countries. Many of its main grain transport roads are still partially unpaved and very few railways are available for agricultural transport. Improvements to infrastructure are slowly being made and transportation costs have dropped in recent years, but there are still many areas that need to be improved for Brazil’s exports to remain competitive, especially in Brazil’s north and center-west regions.”
For more information on Brazil’s soybean transportation, see AMS’ quarterly report and annual guide.
Snapshots by Sector
For the week ending November 23, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 33.4 mmt, down 21 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .184 mmt, down 8 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .599 mmt, down 45 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales were .943 mmt for the same period, up 9 percent from the previous week.
U.S. Class I railroads originated 18,771 grain carloads for the week ending November 25, down 14 percent from the previous week, down 17 percent from last year, and down 12 percent from the 3-year average.
There were no shuttle and non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers this week.
For the week ending December 2, barge grain movements totaled 709,219 tons, 40 percent lower than the previous week, and down 33 percent from the same period last year.
For the week ending December 2, 455 grain barges moved down river, down 39 percent from last week. 863 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, 1 percent lower than the previous week.
For the week ending November 30, 43 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 14 percent less than the same period last year. Forty-two vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 44 percent less than the same period last year.
For the week ending November 30, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $44.25 per metric ton. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24.75 per metric ton..
During the week ending December 4, average diesel fuel prices were almost unchanged from the previous week at $2.92 per gallon, 44 cents above the same week last year.