Moving Grains: Mississippi River Conditions Improve

Mississippi River Conditions Improve After Several Lock Closures Last Week

River conditions on the Upper Mississippi are improving but remain at elevated levels. Several Mississippi River locks were closed because of high water in late June and reopened by July 1. Barge traffic through St. Louis Harbor remains restricted to daylight only. High river levels are also preventing loading operations on the lower Illinois River.

During the week ending July 4, there was no reported barge traffic on the Illinois River at LaGrange Lock and Dam (last lock on the Illinois River). Barge operators report that some loading will begin this week on the upper Illinois River, while loading operations on the lower Illinois could resume next week.

NGFA and STC to Host Second Agricultural Transportation Summit

On August 4-5, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) will host an Ag. Transportation Summit in the Chicago area. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is a cosponsor of the event. According to NGFA Chairman Gary Beachner, “This year’s summit will focus on strategies and steps being taken to enhance capacity and efficiency within all transportation modes – highway, rail, barge and ports – to meet the continued, growing demand for moving freight to both domestic and export markets.”

Topics to be addressed include: inland waterways, rail, surface transportation, ports, the Panama Canal expansion, and private sector investment in infrastructure. For more on the summit, see here.

Diesel Fuel Prices Fall in Response to Crude Oil Prices

During the week ending July 6, diesel fuel prices decreased 1 cent per gallon and a total of 8 cents over the past 6 weeks. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that June crude oil spot prices fell by $3 per barrel to a monthly average of $61 per barrel, putting downward pressure on diesel fuel prices.

EIA stated, “Oil prices have been relatively stable in recent months despite consistent growth in global petroleum and other liquids inventories. Inventory builds are projected to moderate somewhat in the coming months, but are expected to remain high compared with previous years.”

Grain Inspections Fall Significantly

For the week ending July 2, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) from all major export regions reached 1.38 million metric tons (mmt), down 19 percent from the past week, down 24 percent from last year, and 1 percent above the 3-year average. Soybean inspections dropped 37 percent from the previous week; corn inspections decreased by 21 percent.

Inspections of wheat increased 2 percent during the same period. Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 20 percent from the past week, but Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections increased 13 percent as shipments to Asia rebounded.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

During the week ending June 25, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 17.0 mmt, down 2 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales of 0.364 mmt were down 16 percent from the prior week. Corn export sales of 0.594 mmt were up 20 percent from the prior week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 19,046 carloads of grain during the week ending June 27, up 4 percent from last week, up 6 percent from last year, and up 6 percent from the 3-year average.

During the week ending July 2, average July shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $104 below tariff, up $95 from last week, and $404 lower than last year. Non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $50 below tariff, down $25 from last week, and $550 lower than last year.

Barge

During the week ending July 4, barge grain movements totaled 463,684 tons–about 36 percent lower than the previous week, and 33 percent lower than the same period last year.

During the week ending July 4, 282 grain barges moved down river, down 40 percent from last week; 515 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 9 percent from the previous week.

Ocean

During the week ending July 2, 30 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 15 percent more than the same period last year. Forty-three vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 10 percent less than the same period last year.

During the week ending July 3, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $32 per metric ton (mt), unchanged from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $18 per mt, unchanged from the previous week.

Fuel

During the week ending July 6, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 1 cent from the previous week to $2.83 per gallon–down $1.08 from the same week last year.


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