Moving Grains: Flooding Returns to Portions of the River System

Flooding Returns to Portions of the River System

Recent rains have caused minor flooding conditions on the Upper Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee Rivers. On December 16, the Mississippi River at St. Louis rose above 25 feet, a threshold where the Coast Guard restricts tows of barges greater than 600 feet to daylight-only transit in the St. Louis Harbor and requires tow boats to have minimum horsepower requirements.

However, year-to- date barge shipments amounted to 33.2 million tons, about the same as last year, but 15 percent higher than the 5-year average. Barge rates continue to decline as barge demand has been weak. St. Louis export barge rates have dropped from 535 percent of tariff ($21.35 per ton) in late September to 190 percent of tariff ($7.58 per ton) on December 15.

Wheat Inspections Highest Since Early October

For the week ending December 10, total inspections of wheat for export from all major export regions reached .458 million metric tons (mmt), up 93 percent from the past week and 75 percent above the same time last year. Wheat inspections were the highest since early October, with shipments increasing to Africa and Latin America. Total corn inspections increased 3 percent from the previous week, but soybean inspections dropped 19 percent as shipments to Asia declined.

Total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) for export from all major export regions reached 2.43 mmt, down 4 percent from the past week, 19 percent below last year, and 9 percent below the 3-year average. Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 2 percent from the past week, and Pacific Northwest inspections decreased 30 percent. Outstanding export sales for the past week increased for wheat and corn but decreased for soybeans.

USDA Releases Early Report on 2016 Agricultural Projections to 2025

On December 11, USDA released selected tables from its upcoming USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025 report that will be released in February 2016. USDA posted online tables containing long-term supply, use, and price projections to 2025 for major crops and livestock products. The projections use the short-term projections from the November 2015 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report as a starting point. The early-release tables are in MS Excel format and posted to the Office of the Chief Economist’s (OCE) website.

USDA’s long-term agricultural projections are developed through a consensus of departmental agencies involved and are provided as a long-term representative scenario for the agricultural sector for the next decade. The projections can be useful to agricultural shippers in anticipating future transportation demand patterns for agricultural products.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

During the week ending December 3, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 28.7 mmt, down 21 percent from last year. Net weekly wheat export sales of .225 mmt were down 43 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were 1.10 mmt, up 119 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales of 1.45 mmt, up 66 percent from the past week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 23,045 carloads of grain for the week ending December 5, up 24 percent from the previous week, down 11 percent from last year, and up 8 percent from the 3-year average.

Average December shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $131 below tariff for the week ending December 10, up $94 from last week, and $6 higher than last year. Non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $119 below tariff, up $19 from last week.

There were no non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers this time last year.

Barge

For the week ending December 12, barge grain movements totaled 783,351 tons, nearly the same as last week, and down 25 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending December 12, 528 grain barges moved down river, up 6 percent from last week; 957 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, up 11 percent from the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending December 10, 49 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, the same as last year. Sixty-nine vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 6 percent less than last year.

For the week ending December 10, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $25.50 per metric ton (mt), down 4 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $14.00 per mt, down 3 percent from the previous week.

Fuel

During the week ending December 14, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 4 cents from the previous week to $2.34 per gallon–down $1.08 from the same week last year.

Full report.


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