Moving Grain: Barge Traffic Up; Railroads Prepare for Florence

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

Weekly Grain Barge Traffic Up

For the week ending September 8, barge volumes for down-bound grain on the locking portions of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas rivers were 1.3 million tons, 24 percent higher than the prior week. Much of the barge traffic increases are attributable to the completed repairs at Melvin Price Locks and Dam (L&D), near St. Louis, MO. With elimination of the significant delays at Melvin Price L&D the backlog of traffic was freed to continue its journey from the Upper Mississippi River to the Gulf.

However, next week’s tonnage report may be impacted by the current high water conditions caused by remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon that dumped significant rain on much of the Midwest. Tropical Storm Gordon made land fall in Mississippi near the Alabama border on September 5.

Railroads Prepare for Hurricane Florence

The eastern carriers, CSX Transportation (CSX) and Norfolk Southern Railway (NS), have implemented operational plans for Hurricane Florence, expected to make landfall in the Carolinas early Friday morning. CSX has taken steps to protect equipment and prepare areas in the storm’s projected path and the surrounding regions. NS issued embargos on carload and intermodal traffic destined to many locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, including Charleston, SC, and Norfolk, VA.

Charleston and Norfolk house the largest ports for moving grain that could be affected by Hurricane Florence. In terms of bulk U.S. grain exports, Norfolk ranked 11th and Charleston ranked 23rd in 2017. In terms of containerized grain exports, Norfolk ranked 3rd and Charleston ranked 7th. Shipments traveling through affected areas will experience delays.

Grain News on AgFax


Overall Grain Inspections Recede Despite Increases for Wheat and Soybeans

For the week ending September 6, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.18 million metric tons (mmt), down 15 percent from the previous week, down 8 percent from last year, and 6 percent below the 3-year average. Although wheat and soybean inspections increased 5 and 19 percent, respectively, from the previous week, the increases could not offset the 43 percent drop in corn inspections.

Shipments of corn to Latin America and Asia were down significantly from the previous week. Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections increased 17 percent from the past week, but Mississippi Gulf inspections decreased 20 percent for the same period. Outstanding (unshipped) export sales were up for wheat but down for corn and soybeans.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending August 30, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 10.4 mmt, up 23 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .380 mmt, down 8 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .030 mmt, down 83 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were .001 mmt, down significantly from the previous week due to the end of the marketing year.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,633 grain carloads for the week ending September 1, up 3 percent from the previous week, 24 percent from last year, and 11 percent from the 3-year average.

Average September shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $119 below tariff for the week ending September 6, down $108 from last week, and $248 lower than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $250 above tariff, up $69 from last week. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week last year.

Barge

For the week ending September 8, barge grain movements totaled 1,288,464 tons, 24 percent higher than the previous week and up 33 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending September 8, 844 grain barges moved down river, 172 barges more than the previous week. There were 722 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 1 barge less than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending September 6, 31 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, unchanged from the same period last year. Fifty-six vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 22 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending September 6, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain, from the Gulf to Japan, was $46.00 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week. The cost of shipping, from the PNW to Japan, was $25.00 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week.

Fuel

For the week ending September 10, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 0.6 cents, from the previous week to $3.258 per gallon, 45.6 cents above the same week last year.

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