Moving Grain: Weekly Barge Tonnages Decline

The Port of Rosedale - Rosedale, Mississippi - Mississippi River ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Weekly Grain Barge Tonnages Decline

For the week ending August 4, barge tonnages on the locking portions of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas rivers dropped 10 percent compared to the previous week.

Weekly corn tonnages dropped 6 percent while soybeans dropped 22 percent. Mississippi River barge traffic was delayed in the St. Louis area, with on-going repair work at Melvin Price Locks and Dam, where the main chamber will be closed until August 10.

Traffic is passable through Melvin Price’s smaller auxiliary chamber, however, there are delays in the 2 to 4 day range. Year-to-date corn barge shipments were 14.4 million tons, 5 percent lower than last year; soybean year-to-date tonnages were 7.1 million tons, 8 percent lower than last year.

Total Grain Inspections Down, but Soybeans Rebound

For the week ending August 2, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.55 million metric tons (mmt); down 10 percent from the previous week, up 9 percent from last year, and 19 percent above the 3-year average.

Despite the drop in overall grain inspections, soybean inspections rebounded from the previous week, and were the highest since early March. Corn inspections decreased 23 percent from the past week, and wheat inspections dropped 14 percent for the same period.

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Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections decreased 35 percent from the previous week, while Mississippi Gulf inspections increased 10 percent for the same period. Outstanding (unshipped) export sales of corn, wheat and soybeans remained below the past week.

CN Railway Publishes First Annual Public Grain Plan

Canadian National (CN) Railway published its first annual public grain plan for the 2018-19 crop year to its website. The plan outlines CN’s strategy to meet the anticipated volume of grain expected to be moved, in the upcoming crop year, through four main tenets:

  1. purchasing 1,000 new hopper cars over two years;
  2. purchasing 200 new locomotives over three years;
  3. hiring 1,250 new conductors to be trained and working, prior to the winter of 2018/19; and
  4. spending $3.5 billion on capital expenditures in 2018, including capacity improvements such as line upgrades and double-tracking.

The plan and many of the expenditures are specific to its Canadian network. However, certain projects will also benefit its U.S. operations such as new tracks planned at the Manitoba yard, which will improve the efficient handling of railcars from the United States.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending July 26, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 18.6 mmt, up 14 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .382 mmt, down 1 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .292 mmt, down 14 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were .094 mmt, down 76 percent from the previous week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 24,247 grain carloads for the week ending July 28, up 2 percent from the previous week, up 17 percent from last year, and up 8 percent from the 3-year average.

Average August shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $171 below tariff, for the week ending August 2, up $4 from last week, and $17 below last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $182 above tariff, up $332 from last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers last week.

Barge

For the week ending August 4, barge grain movements totaled 809,963 tons, 11 percent lower than the previous week and down 5 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending August 4, 506 grain barges moved down river, 83 barges less than the previous week. There were 731 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 23 percent lower than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending August 2, 29 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 22 percent less than the same period last year. Forty-six vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, unchanged from the same period last year.

For the week ending August 2, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $43.75 per metric ton, down 1 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24.25 per metric ton, down 2 percent from the previous week.

Fuel

For the week ending August 6, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 0.3 cents from the previous week to $3.223 per gallon, 64.2 cents above the same week last year.


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