Moving Grain: Significant Decline in Barge Tonnages – Hurricane Recovery

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Significant Decline in Weekly Barge Tonnages

For the week ending on September 15, grain barge shipments on the locking portion of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers experienced a significant decrease (58 percent drop) in grain tonnages. The total weekly tonnage and down bound grain barges both reached the lowest point since the second week of March this year. The total weekly grain tonnage was 0.54 million tons, with corn down 55 percent and soybeans down 65 percent from last week, respectively.

The number of down bound grain barges was 357, a 58 percent drop from the previous week. While high water conditions have caused some recent barge traffic delays and tonnage declines, there can be a seasonal down turn in movements as the barge industry prepares for the upcoming corn and soybean harvest.

Southeast Recovers After Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence brought record rainfall and flood conditions to much of North Carolina and parts of South Carolina. Port operations in Virginia and South Carolina are open and fully operational. The Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City, NC, are expected to resume vessel operations by the end of the week, and terminal operations on Monday, September 24.

The eastern railroads are dealing with flooded tracks, a derailment, and delayed cargo movements; especially to destinations in North Carolina. Tracks are re-opening as conditions permit.

Large portions of Interstates 95, 40, and 74, through North Carolina, are closed due to damage and flooding. Detours are in place and trucking waivers, on hours of service and weight limits, remain in effect to assist relief and recovery efforts.

Grain Inspections Up; Corn Rebounds

For the week ending September 13, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.27 million metric tons (mmt); up 3 percent from the previous week, up 6 percent from last year, and unchanged from the 3-year average. The increase in inspections was helped by a 31 percent jump in inspections of corn.

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Corn shipments increased primarily to Latin America. Grain inspections increased 11 percent in the Mississippi Gulf, but decreased 14 percent in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Total inspections of grain, up 5 percent from year-to-date, have continued to remain steady.

Also, inspections of grain in the Atlantic and Great Lakes have remained strong from year-to-date, increasing 48 and 54 percent, respectively, as demand from Asia and Europe increased.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending September 6, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 34.9 mmt, up 14 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .388 mmt, up 2 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .774 mmt, and net soybean export sales were .694 mmt. Both corn and soybean net exports sales decreased significantly from the past week, due to the beginning of the new marketing year.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 20,019 grain carloads for the week ending September 8; down 12 percent from the previous week, up 15 percent from last year, and up 2 percent from the 3-year average.

Average September shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $75 below tariff for the week ending September 13, up $44 from last week, and $338 lower than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers, per car, were $275 above tariff, up $25 from last week. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week last year.

Barge

For the week ending September 15, barge grain movements totaled 540,500 tons, 58 percent lower than the previous week and down 3 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending September 15, 357 grain barges moved down river, 487 barges less than the previous week. There were 778 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 8 percent higher than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending September 13, 33 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 8 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-six vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 3 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending September 13, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain, from the Gulf to Japan, was $46.25 per metric ton, 1 percent more than 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 17, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 1 cent, from the previous week, to $3.268 per gallon, 47.7 cents above the same week last year.

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