Moving Grain: Flooding Continues to Impact River Traffic

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Flooding Continues to Impact River Traffic

Much of the Mississippi River remains impacted by this year’s on-going flooding. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, river levels are receding in some areas, however, recent precipitation may prevent water levels from receding further.

Forecasts indicate the second snow melt of the season may have less impact than the first. While a fluctuating number of locks are closed on the Upper Mississippi River, barge traffic is stopped between Locks 22 and 24 due to highwater preventing barge passage under a bridge near Louisiana, MO.

Industry sources report the Louisiana Bridge may be open for a few days later in April, but will likely close again in May due to more rain being forecasted. Barge traffic is restricted to daylight only through St. Louis Harbor and at bridges in Vicksburg, MS, and Baton Rouge, LA. There are tow size restrictions throughout the system.

Wheat Drives Increase in Total Grain Inspections

For the week ending April 18, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.59 million metric tons (mmt). This denotes a 16 percent increase from the previous week, an 11 percent decrease from last year, and an 8 percent increase from the 3-year average. A 53 percent jump in wheat inspections drove the increase in total inspections.

Weekly wheat inspections, destined primarily to Latin America and Africa, were the highest since late September 2016. Corn inspections increased 14 percent from week-to-week, but soybean inspections dropped 20 percent. Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections increased 11 percent from the previous week while inspections in the Mississippi Gulf increased 9 percent.

Diesel Fuel Prices Rise for Third Consecutive Week

For the week ending April 22, the average diesel fuel price in the U.S. increased to $3.147 per gallon, 2.9 cents above the previous week’s average and 1.4 cents above the same week last year.

Grain News on AgFax

Prices have increased nearly 7 cents per gallon over the past 3 weeks. A similar increase in crude oil prices is putting pressure on diesel fuel prices. The Energy Information Administration expects demand for diesel fuel this summer to be strong again this year, due to continued economic growth, industrial output, international trade activity, and oil and natural gas drilling activity.

All of these factors contribute to more trucking activity.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending April 11, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 31 mmt. This indicates a 15 percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .318 mmt, up 16 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales totaled .948 mmt, up 73 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales totaled .382 mmt, up 41 percent from the past week.


U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,639 grain carloads for the week ending April 13. This is down 1 percent from the previous week, 4 percent lower than last year, and unchanged from the 3-year average.

Average May shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $125 below tariff for the week ending April 18. This is down $154
from last week and $817 below last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $650 above tariff, up $313 from last week. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week last year.


For the week ending April 13, barge grain movements totaled 428,581 tons. This is 15 percent lower than the previous week and 31 percent lower than the same period last year.

For the week ending April 13, 265 grain barges moved down river. This is 65 less barges than the previous week. There were 524 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 12 percent higher than the previous week.


For the week ending April 18, 32 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf. This was is 14 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-four vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days. This is 8 percent more than the same period last year.

As of April 18, 2019, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $42.00, unchanged from the previous week. The rate for the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $23.00 per mt. This is 2 percent lower than the previous week.

Full report.

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