Moving Grain: Upper Mississippi River Navigation Season Ends

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Upper Mississippi River Navigation Season Ends for St. Paul District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports the last barge tow of the 2018 navigation season departed St. Paul, MN, on November 25. The last tow from the northern most navigable portion of the Mississippi River marks the end of the Upper Mississippi River navigation season.

Typically, the end of season occurs during late November as ice accumulations begin to block traffic during the winter.

Grain Inspections Continue to Recede

For the week ending December 6, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.23 million metric tons (mmt), which is down 16 percent from the previous week, 6 percent from last year, and 26 percent below the 3-year average. Inspections of each of the three major grains were down compared to the previous week.

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During the last four weeks, inspections were 12 percent below the same time last year and 8 percent below the 3-year average. Inspections in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) were down 7 percent from the previous week, while Mississippi Gulf inspections dropped 19 percent for the same period.

Outstanding export sales (unshipped) were up slightly from the previous week for wheat, but unchanged for corn and down for soybeans.

Strong Corn Exports to East Asia

According to the recently released December Grain: World Markets and Trade—a monthly report produced by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service—“early-season shipments of [U.S.] corn to East Asia (Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) have been exceptional, supporting a strong start to the marketing year. The latest information shows that accumulated shipments this marketing year have reached nearly 16 million tons, near-doubling that of a comparable time from a year ago.”

Shipments to East Asian destinations account for about 5 million tons (30 percent of the total), up from 1.3 million tons last year. The report cites the main reason for this increase is the competitiveness of corn, which stems from high global availability of corn, increased global demand for corn as feed, and other factors.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending November 29, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 28.5 mmt, down 15 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .712 mmt, up 89 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were 1.18 mmt, down 7 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were .891 mmt, up 42 percent from the past week, and the highest since late September.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,424 grain carloads for the week ending December 1, up 12 percent from the previous week, down 13 percent from last year, and down 3 percent from the 3-year average.

Average December shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $116 below tariff for the week ending December 6, up $29 from last week, and $25 higher than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $50 below tariff, down $138 from last week. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week last year.

Barge

For the week ending December 8, barge grain movements totaled 780,672 tons, 17 percent higher than the previous week and down 4 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending December 8, 503 grain barges moved down river, 74 barges more than the previous week. There were 790 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 13 percent lower than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending December 6, 31 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 16 percent less than the same period last year. Sixty-four vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 5 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending December 6, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain, from the Gulf to Japan, was $48.00 per metric ton. The cost of shipping, from the PNW to Japan, was $26.00 per metric ton.

Fuel

For the week ending December 10, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 4.6 cents, from the previous week, to $3.161 per gallon, 25.1 cents above the same week last year.

Full report.


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