U.S. Grain Transportation: Inspections Lowest Since Late September

For the week ending December 25, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) from all major export regions reached 2.2 million metric tons (mmt), down 37 percent from the past week, up 4 percent from last year, and 1 percent below the 3-year average.

Grain inspections were the lowest since late September and are about average for this time of the year, at the end of harvest and the beginning of the holiday season.

Inspections of each of the major grains were also down from the previous week. Corn inspections (.594 mmt) were down 24 percent from the past week, wheat (.198 mmt) down 57 percent, and soybeans (1.5 mmt) down 37 percent.

STC Releases Summary of the Third Biweekly Rail Service Survey

The Soy Transportation Coalition released its third survey of the grain handling facilities in the Upper Midwest. (This is a follow-up to the 12/1 8/2014 GTR feature article.)

The results of this survey show 78 percent of the respondents reporting that cycle times for railroads are faster than a year ago–an increase from 67 percent in the first survey and 70 percent in the second survey.

Past-due metrics also improved, with 54 percent recording no rail orders as past due–an increase from 33 percent in the first survey and 48 percent in the second survey. Only 3 percent reported “more” pressure on storage than last year, and 97 percent responded that storage pressure was “the same,” “less” or “much less” than last year.

While fewer rail customers are reporting past due orders, the average number of days past due for those that are experiencing delays increased from 13.4 days in the second survey to 30 days in the third survey.

PMA Requests Federal Mediation Assistance to Further Longshore Labor Negotiations

On December 22, the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) announced it received a request from representatives of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to provide mediation services in the PMA’s continuing labor negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for a collective bargaining agreement covering all West Coast ports.

In accordance with its statutory responsibilities, the FMCS has been closely monitoring these negotiations for some time and has stood ready to provide mediation services at a moment’s notice. FMCS mediators will reach out to the parties to determine whether an d when mediation assistance would be most valuable. On December 29, the PMA renewed its call for the assistance of federal mediation in response to an ILWU press release, which reported only a few issues left to resolve.

Snapshots by Sector

  • Export Sales During the week ending December 18, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 35.3 mmt, 17 percent lower than the same time last year. Corn export sales reached 1.7 mmt, down 28 percent from the previous week. Wheat reached 0.293 mmt, down 39 percent, and soybeans , at 0.636 mmt, were down 9 percent.
  • Rail U.S. railroads originated 25,290 carloads of grain during the week ending December 20, up 5 percent from last week, 20 percent from last year, and 18 percent from the 3-year average. During the week ending December 25, average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $88 below tariff, down $113 from last week and $1,819 lower than last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers.
  • Barge During the week ending December 27 barge grain movements totaled 610,024 tons–25.6 percent lower than the previous week and 4 percent lower than the same period last year. During the week ending December 27, 384 grain barges moved down river, down 29.2 percent from last week; 479 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 48.3 percent from the previous week.
  • Ocean During the week ending December 25, 41 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 5 percent more than the same period last year. Fifty vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 27.5 percent less than the same period last year.
  • Fuel During the week ending December 29, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 7 cents from the previous week to $3.21 per gallon– down 69 cents from the same week last year.

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