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Moving Grain: Diesel Prices Hit 3 Year High

Ernst Undesser
From USDA January 11, 2018

Moving Grain: Diesel Prices Hit 3 Year High

Diesel Prices Hit $3.00 Per Gallon

During the week ending January 8, diesel prices averaged $3.00 per gallon at retail sales. The last time the Energy Information Agency reported diesel prices above $3.00 per gallon was on the week ending January 12, 2015. Over the last 3 years, weekly averages for U.S. diesel prices fluctuated in between $3.05 and $1.98 per gallon.

This week, average diesel fuel prices increased 2 cents from the previous week—to $3.00 per gallon—which is 40 cents above the same week last year, 82 cents above the same week two years ago, and 1 cent below the same week three years ago.

Low Water and Ice Impacting Barge Traffic

Low water and ice are delaying barge traffic on the Mississippi River at St. Louis and between St. Louis and Cairo, IL. For the week ending January 6, downbound grain shipments at Mississippi River Locks 27 were 68 thousand tons, about 71 percent below the 3-year average for the first week of the year. Rock pinnacle removal activities between St. Louis and Cairo have been halted due to ice accumulations in the river.

Barge traffic on the Ohio River has been delayed by operational difficulties at Locks and Dam 52. Illinois River shipments are slow, as barge operators are dealing with extreme ice issues. American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL) reports that their normal Illinois River tows of 15 barges have been reduced to 6 or 9 barges. Based upon the current forecast, ACBL does not anticipate returning to normal tow sizes for another 30 days.

Weekly Grain Carloadings End 2017 on Low Volume

For the week ending December 30, U.S. Class I railroads originated 15,713 grain carloads, down 30 percent from the previous week, 20 percent from last year, and 18 percent from the 3-year average. Weekly grain carloadings typically decrease during the end-of-year holiday week, but they were at their lowest level in five years, compared to 13,305 carloadings in 2012 when grain production was reduced following the severe drought.

Grain News on AgFax


In addition to grain, the Association of American Railroads reported that weekly carloadings across all other commodity categories were down compared to the same week last year.

Grain Inspections Continue to Recede

For the week ending January 4, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 1.28 million metric tons (mmt), down 41 percent from the previous week, down 33 percent from the same time last year, and 51 percent below the 3-year average. Inspections of each of the three major grains were down significantly from the previous week, with the largest drop in wheat (72 percent).

The declines were due in part to a significant slowdown in barge and rail movements of grain following the holidays. Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections decreased 55 percent from the past week, and Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 29 percent for the same period. Outstanding (unshipped) export sales were up slightly for wheat but down for soybeans and corn.

Snapshots by Sector

Export

Sales For the week ending December 28, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 34.5 mmt, down 15 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .132 mmt, down 72 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .101 mmt, down 92 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales were .554 mmt for the same period, down 43 percent from the previous week.

Rail

Average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $225 above tariff for the week ending January 4, up $92 from last week, and $433 lower than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $0, $25 higher than last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers last week.

Barge

For the week ending January 6, barge grain movements totaled 211,290 tons, 66 percent lower than the previous week, and down 68 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending January 6, 141 grain barges moved down river, down 65 percent from last week, 816 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, 9 percent lower than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending January 4, 37 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 16 percent less than the same period last year. Forty-seven vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 40 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending January 4, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $43 per metric ton. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24 per metric ton.

Full report.

Ernst Undesser
From USDA January 11, 2018