Moving Grain: River Levels Decline on Upper Mississippi, New Orleans at Flood Stage

    Mississippi River Lock and Dam number 7 - From USGS

    River Levels Decline on the Upper Mississippi while New Orleans remains at Flood Stage

    River conditions are rapidly returning to normal levels on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Ice accumulations, however, are forming on slower moving portions of the rivers and at locks and dams, which is lowering water levels. To offset the decline in Upper Mississippi and Illinois River traffic, grain barge tonnages have increased considerably on the Ohio River.

    For the week ending January 16, Ohio River corn tonnages were 210 thousand tons, up 159 percent as compared to the previous 4-week average. High water conditions exist on the Lower Mississippi River, causing the Coast Guard to restrict tow sizes and require daylight-only transits in certain areas.

    River levels at Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA, are at or near flood levels, prompting the Coast Guard to require daylight-only traffic in certain areas. Flood levels at the Louisiana ports are slowly declining, but will remain high for remainder of January.

    Panama Canal Authority Delays Opening of Lock Expansion

    According to the Journal of Commerce, the opening of the expanded locks on the Panama Canal has been delayed until the second half of the year, from the previously scheduled opening of April 2016. Francisco J. Miguez, executive vice president for finance and administration at the Panama Canal Authority, made the announcement at a recent freight conference in Atlanta. Miguez said a more specific opening timeframe would be available after lock testing in February.

    KCS Track and Bridge Projects in Louisiana

    Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) said it will invest about $15 million this year on rail and bridge improvements between DeQuincy, LA, and DeRidder, LA. Work began on January 12 and will continue through February. The projects are designed to increase capacity and enhance safety, and include replacing 25 miles of rail and making a number of bridge improvements. KCS owns and operates approximately 915 miles of rail infrastructure in Louisiana and serves the river and Gulf ports of Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Natchitoches, and New Orleans.

    Corn and Soybean Inspections Increase

    For the week ending January 14, total inspections of corn for export from all major export regions reached .570 million metric tons (mmt), up 6 percent from the past week but 22 percent below the same time last year. Soybean inspections increased 8 percent from the previous week, at 1.4 mmt, but were 7 percent below last year.

    Wheat inspections, however, decreased 14 percent from the past week but remained above the 3-year average. Inspections of grain were down 1 percent in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and down 5 percent in the Mississippi Gulf. Texas Gulf inspection, however, jumped over 500 percent from the past week as each of the major grains rebounded.

    Total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major export regions reached 2.35 mmt, up 3 percent from the past week, 12 percent below last year, and 5 percent above the 3-year average.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    During the week ending January 7, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 25.9 mmt, down 21 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales of .275 mmt were up 257 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .669 mmt, up 164 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales of 1.05 mmt, up 65 percent from the past week.

    Rail

    U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,161 carloads of grain for the week ending January 9, up 14 percent from the previous week, down 3 percent from last year, and up 7 percent from the 3-year average.

    Average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $75 above tariff for the week ending January 14, up $179 from last week. There were no shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers this week last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $150 below tariff, down $75 from last week. There were no non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers this week last year.

    Barge

    For the week ending January 16, barge grain movements totaled 588,702 tons, 36 percent higher than last week, and up 23 percent from the same period last year.

    For the week ending January 16, 360 grain barges moved down river, up 37 percent from last week; 666 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 17 percent from the previous week.

    Ocean

    For the week ending January 14, 44 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 12.8 percent more than the same period last year. Seventy-one vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 12.7 percent more than the same period last year.

    For the week ending January 14, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $24.50 per metric ton (mt), down 3 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $13.50 per mt, down 4 percent from the previous week.

    Fuel

    During the week ending January 18, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 6 cents from the previous week to $2.11 per gallon–down $0.82 from the same week last year.

    Full report




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