Moving Grain: Corn Inspections Rise; Barge Tonnage Recovers

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Corn Inspections Continue to Rise

For the week ending July 26, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.81 million metric tons (mmt); up 11 percent from the previous week, up 34 percent from last year, and 37 percent above the 3-year average.

The increase in total inspections was helped primarily by a 25 percent jump in inspections of corn and a 2 percent increase in soybean inspections. Corn shipments increased to Asia and Latin America. Total wheat inspections were down 12 percent from the previous week.

Week-to-week grain inspections rebounded in the Pacific Northwest and Mississippi Gulf; increasing 43 and 13 percent, respectively. However, outstanding (unshipped) export sales of corn, wheat, and soybeans, are currently below the previous week.

Weekly Barge Tonnages Recover but Face New Navigation Challenges

For the week ending July 28, corn barge tonnage on the locking portions of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas rivers were 512 thousand tons, 31 percent higher than last week. Soybean tonnages were 354 thousand tons, 76 percent higher than last week, and the second highest weekly tonnage since March.

There were 923 grain barges unloaded in the New Orleans Port Region, the highest number since late November 2017. The increases mostly occurred as a result of the recovery of the Mississippi River navigation system from recent high water conditions.

However, there are now significant delays, for the near term, due to repairs that have closed the main chamber at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam on the Upper Mississippi River (near East Alton, IL). The partial closure is expected to last until August 10.

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Industry sources indicated current delays are in the 40 to 60 hour range. As of July 31, spot barge rates, for export grain on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, have increased 19 to 22 percent compared to last week.

ASLRRA Releases Economic Impact Report

Last week, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) released a study, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, on the contribution of the short line railroad industry. There were 603 short line railroads as of 2016, operating 47,500 route miles (29 percent of the Nation’s rail network).

According to the report, “the short line industry directly provided 17,100 jobs in the United States in 2016, paying labor income of $1.1 billion, and adding $2.2 billion to the nation’s GDP.” Short lines play an important role in the movement of agricultural products, moving about 1 million carloads of grain and food products in 2015.

Snapshots by Sector

Export

Sales For the week ending July 19, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 20.7 mmt, up 13 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .386 mmt, up 29 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .339 mmt, down 47 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were .538 mmt, up 177 percent from the previous week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 23,767 grain carloads for the week ending July 21; down 4 percent from the previous week, but up 16 percent from last year, and 10 percent above the 3-year average.

Average August shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $175 below tariff, for the week ending July 26, down $188 from last week, and unchanged from last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.

Barge

For the week ending July 28, barge grain movements totaled 904,972 tons, 39 percent higher than the previous week and up 11 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending July 28, 589 grain barges moved down river, 168 barges more than the previous week. There were 923 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 15 percent higher than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending July 26, 38 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 7 percent less than the same period last year. Forty-four vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 4 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending July 26, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $44.00 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24.75 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week.

Fuel

For the week ending July 30, fuel prices increased 0.6 cents from the previous week to $3.23 per gallon, 70 cents above the same week last year.

Containerized Grain

Containerized grain exports to Asia in May were just over 14,000 TEU; 63 percent lower than the previous year, 68 percent lower than the 5-year average, and 18 percent lower than April movements.

Full report.


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