Moving Grain: River Conditions Continue to Hamper Navigation

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

Winter River Conditions Continue to Hamper Navigation

On February 2, the Coast Guard reported a 35-barge tow had become grounded on the Mississippi River, near Caruthersville, MO. The grounding was a result of unexpected low water levels that occurred as the Upper Mississippi River has subsided and sediments deposited from the flood waters became navigation hazards. The grounding and barge recovery operations temporarily closed the river.

The Lower Mississippi River in the Baton Rouge-New Orleans (BR-NO), LA area is still at highwater stage and Coast Guard restrictions are in place that limit barge and vessel movements.

USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration reported 531 unloaded grain barges in BR-NO for the week ending January 30, 33 percent lower than the 3-year average. However, the supply of empty barges has improved as 580 empty barges have returned to the Upper Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers for the week ending January 30, 16 percent higher than the 3-year average.

Total Grain Inspections Up Slightly

For the week ending January 28, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) for export from all major export regions reached 2.1 million metric tons (mmt), up 3 percent from the past week, 25 percent below last year, and 15 percent below the 3-year average.

Wheat inspections rebounded, increasing 50 percent from the previous week as shipments to Asia increased 67 percent. Corn inspections increased as well, up 13 percent from the past week. Soybean inspections, however, were down 8 percent from the previous week.

Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections jumped 35 percent from the previous week, but Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 13 percent for the same period. Outstanding export sales (unshipped) of grain continued to increase for corn, but were down for wheat and soybeans.

Diesel Fuel Prices Continue to Fall

The average U.S. On-Highway Diesel Fuel price fell to $2.03 per gallon this week–4 cents lower than the previous week and 80 cents lower than the same week last year. Prices have fallen 20 cents since the beginning of the year. If the trend continues, the U.S. average could fall below $2.00 per gallon which has not occurred since early 2005. In the meantime, 4 of the 10 regional averages fell below $2.00 this week–the Lower Atlantic, Midwest, Gulf Coast, and Rocky Mountain regions.

The lowest rate was $1.92 per gallon in the Gulf Coast region. Gulf Coast rates have not been this low this March 2009.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

During the week ending January 21, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 25.5 mmt, down 21 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales of .294 mmt were down 19 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .817 mmt, down 29 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales of .648 mmt, down 24 percent from the past week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,047 carloads of grain for the week ending January 23, down 10 percent from the previous week, down 10 percent from last year, and unchanged from the 3-year average.

Average February shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $38 above tariff for the week ending January 28, up $50 from last week, and $250 higher than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $15 below tariff, up $48 from last week. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week last year.

Barge

For the week ending January 30, barge grain movements totaled 746,399 tons, 23 percent higher than last week, and up 7 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending January 30, 459 grain barges moved down river, up 20 percent from last week; 531 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 16 percent from the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending January 28, 32 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 25.6 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-six vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 16.4 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending January 28, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $22.75 per metric ton (mt), down 2.2 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $12.50 per metic ton, down 3.8 percent from the previous week.

Full report.


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