Moving Grain: Floods Continue to Disrupt Barge Traffic

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Floods Continue to Disrupt Barge Traffic

On-going highwater conditions continue to disrupt barge traffic on most of the inland waterways. On the Upper Mississippi River there are multiple lock closures. As of May 30, all traffic through St Louis is stopped, as the Mississippi River gauge there was 42.4 feet and rising. The Coast Guard stops all traffic at St. Louis when the river gauge exceeds 38 feet. The National Weather Service’s forecast doesn’t show the river levels dropping below 38 feet until mid-June.

Barge traffic is also stopped on the Lower Illinois River and much of the Arkansas River. The Ohio River and the Lower Mississippi River are open but traffic is delayed by high water conditions. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports saturated soil levels throughout the Mississippi River Valley Basin are at 25-year highs.

Additional rain, coupled with the saturated soils, may bring faster runoff and rapid jumps in river stages.

Grain Inspections Down Slightly but Corn Rebounds

For the week ending May 23, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.16 million metric tons (mmt). This amount signifies a 3 percent decrease from the previous week, a 22 percent drop from last year, and a 2 percent decrease from the 3-year average.

Although inspections of corn and soybeans increased 31 and 7 percent, respectively, from week to week, the increases could not offset the 41 percent drop in inspections of wheat. Compared to the previous week, grain inspections decreased 3 percent in the Mississippi Gulf and 5 percent in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).

Ocean Freight Rates Ticked Up Slightly for Two Consecutive Weeks

Ocean freight rates for shipping bulk grains rose for two consecutive weeks, but they are still below the levels seen at the beginning of the year, and relatively the same as the same period last year.

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As of May 23, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $43.50. This is a 2 percent increase since the last 2 weeks, but 7 percent less than the beginning of the year, and unchanged from the same period last year.

The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $24.00 per mt. This is a 4 percent increase since the last 2 weeks, but 4 percent less than the beginning of the year, and 1 percent less than the same period last year. According to the May 23 Transportation and Export report by O’Neil Commodity Consulting, rates are expected to continue rise gradually as we move into the fourth quarter.

However, the direction of the rates could be impacted by the outcome of the current tariff and trade turmoil.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending May 16, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 24 mmt. This indicates a 19 percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .048 mmt, down 58 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales totaled .442 mmt, down 20 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales totaled .536 mmt, up 45 percent from the past week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 23,194 grain carloads for the week ending May 18. This is 4 percent lower than the previous week, up 4 percent from last year, and 6 percent above the 3-year average.

Average June shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $22 below tariff for the week ending May 23. This is $136 above last week and $322 lower than last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.

Barge

For the week ending May 25, barge grain movements totaled 542,150 tons. This is 47 percent more than the previous week and 27 percent lower than the same period last year.

For the week ending May 25, 324 grain barges moved down river. This is 114 more barges than the previous week. There were 432 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans. This is 16 percent lower than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending May 23, 36 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf. This is 16 percent more than the same period last year. Forty-two vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days. This is 11 percent more than the same period last year.

As of May 23, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $43.50. This is 1 percent more than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $24.00 per mt, a 2 percent increase from the previous week.

Fuel

For the week ending May 27, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 1.2 cents, from the previous week, to $3.151 per gallon. This price is 13.7 cents below the same week last year.

Full report.


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