Moving Grain: Barge Tonnages Drop in 2018

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Grain Barge Tonnages Drop in 2018

In 2018, total annual grain barge shipments along the locking portions of the Mississippi, Arkansas, and Ohio rivers were 37.98 million tons, 7 percent lower than last year and 5 percent lower than the 3-year average.

Total soybean movements in 2018 were 1.67 million tons, 24 percent lower than 2017 and 18 percent lower than the 3-year average; mainly due to reduced sales to China. Total wheat movements in 2018 were 12.82 million tons, 20 percent lower than last year and 22 percent lower than the 3-year average.

On the other hand, the total corn movements were 22.24 million tons, 5 percent higher than last year and 6 percent higher than the 3-year average.

BNSF Reports Almost $3 Billion in Customer Investments Last Year

Last week, BNSF Railway (BNSF) announced that its customers invested nearly $3 billion in 2018 to create or expand their facilities. According to the press release, it is “the eighth consecutive year that BNSF customers and local economic development organizations have invested more than $1 billion in a calendar year.”

Among the customers highlighted, Dakota Plains opened a new $40 million grain terminal in Napa Junction, SD, capable of handling 110-car trains. It is one of the largest grain facilities in southeastern South Dakota.

Total Grain Inspections Up Slightly

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For the week ending January 31, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans), for export from all major U.S. export regions, reached 2.38 million metric tons (mmt), which is up 2 percent from the previous week, down 18 percent from last year, and 9 percent below the 3-year average.

Wheat inspections increased 20 percent from week-to-week, as shipments to Asia and Latin America increased. Inspections of soybeans increased 3 percent from the previous week, but corn inspections dropped 7 percent.

Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections decreased 9 percent from the previous week, while Mississippi Gulf inspections increased 4 percent. Inspections of grain during the last four weeks are 4 percent below last year and 2 percent below the 3-year average.

Diesel Fuel Prices Level after Three Months of Consistent Decline

After more than a 3-month steady decline, during the past two weeks U.S. average on-highway diesel fuel prices leveled out near $2.966 per gallon. Prices increased only 0.1 cents during the week ending February 4, but were 12 cents below the same week last year.

According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA)latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, crude oil prices also fell in November and December after October averages reached the highest level since October 2014. EIA said, “The price decline in late 2018 largely reflected rising oil inventories as a result of record levels of crude oil production from the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Prices also fell as a result of uncertainties about global economic indicators and future oil demand growth.”

Snapshots by Sector

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,435 grain carloads for the week ending January 26, down 6 percent from the previous week, 5 percent from last year, and 3 percent from the 3-year average.

Average February shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $230 above tariff for the week ending January 31, up $328 from last week, and up $164 from last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $50 below tariff, down $142 from last week, and down $69 from last year.

Barge

For the week ending February 2, barge grain movements totaled 355,301 tons, 22 percent lower than the previous week and down 47 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending February 2, 220 grain barges moved down river, 51 barges less than the previous week. There were 865 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 5 percent higher than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending January 31, 34 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 15 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-two vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 16 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending January 31, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain, from the Gulf to Japan, was $39.00 per metric ton, 5 percent less than the previous week. The cost of shipping, from the PNW to Japan, was $22.00 per metric ton, 4 percent less than the previous week.

Full report.


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