WEEKLY GRAIN MOVEMENT: River shipments delayed as locks close

Flooding in Iowa moves downstream, closing Mississippi River locks.

High water on the Mississippi River will close locks for a few days this week on the mid-Mississippi River, which will halt grain shipments to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The closures had been expected as last week’s flooding of Iowa creeks and rivers moved downstream. The closure may affect soybeans more than corn because river elevators have been loading soybean barges but very few corn barges. The soybean basis at the Gulf dropped sharply recently, which is normal during harvest, but many of the barges destined for the Gulf were sold some time ago, when prices were higher.

On Monday, the National Weather Service river gauge showed the Mississippi River at moderate to major flood stages from the Quad Cities to St. Louis, Mo. The Army Corps of Engineers said the lock near New Boston, Ill., was closed but was set to reopen on Wednesday. Two others were likely closed, but the Corps office on Monday was unable to provide their current status.

A river terminal in the Quad Cities continued to load soybean barges that will be ready when navigation resumes. Bids for soybeans at the Gulf have fallen sharply in the past week as harvested soybeans downstream have become available. That has made local processors the better market, but even those bids have trended lower, shippers said.

In central Illinois, a rail shipper this week loaded two trains of soybeans destined for Gulf export markets, but those trains also were sold some time ago, and local processors currently have the best bids. The shipper was sending corn to a local ethanol plant.

Barge rates for shipment from the Quad Cities to the Gulf eased in the past week to about 525% of tariff for next week and 500% the following week. The 25-point decrease in shipping costs equates to a decrease of 3.4 cents/bu. for corn and 3.6 cents/bu. for soybeans.

Corn at the Gulf was bid about 38 cents over December for October shipment, compared with 50 cents over the previous week. Soybeans for October shipment were bid 57 cents over November versus about 67 cents over a week ago.

Late on Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the national corn harvest was 24% completed, which matched last year’s pace but trailed the five-year average pace of 27%. The soybean harvest was 26% completed versus 36% last year and the 27% average.

USDA’s weekly grain inspections for corn of about 57.9 million bu. were up from a week ago, matched trade forecasts and topped the weekly pace needed to meet USDA’s annual export forecast. Soybean shipments of 40.6 million bu. were up sharply from a week ago, beat trade forecasts and topped USDA’s projected weekly rate. Wheat shipments of 23.6 million bu. were down from a week ago, matched forecasts and topped the weekly rate needed to meet USDA’s forecast.

Shipments

USDA said barge grain shipments during the week ended Sept. 24 were 444,350 tons, down 15% from the prior week and down 10% from a year ago.

In the rail sector, grain car loadings totaled 22,525 for the week ended Sept. 17, unchanged from the prior week and down 2% from a year ago, according to USDA’s "Grain Transportation Report."

For truckers, the U.S. average diesel fuel price dropped 1 cent in the latest week to $2.38/gal. That is down 9 cents from the same week last year.

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