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WEEKLY GRAIN MOVEMENT: Barge traffic up as river opens

doranjclark_iStock_Thinkstock freight rail hoppers and grain silos
Warm weather allows early start to Mississippi River navigation.

Warm weather throughout Midwest allowed for an early start to navigation on the Mississippi River, with barge tows now operating as far north as Hasting, Minn., just south of Minneapolis.

However, a lack of farmer selling has lessened the ability to move barges south. One river shipper said they are loading corn and soybean barges this week that were sold weeks ago, while new sales were slow.

Corn bids at the Gulf of Mexico have held steady despite the availability of South American grain, shippers said. The firm bids on the river, combined with the light farmer selling, caused processors in eastern Iowa to raise basis bids.

Corn for March shipment to the Gulf was bid 38 over the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) May contract this week -- unchanged from last week -- and April shipment was bid 38 over, also unchanged. Soybean bids at the Gulf rose a little this past week, with March bid 28 over and April 25, both of which are up a few cents from last week.

Shipping grain by rail to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is now being hampered by rain and spring thaw, with the moisture softening roadbeds. A report in "Railway Age" on Monday said several grain cars on a Union Pacific train rolled down an embankment last week when the roadway gave way near Moyie Springs, Ida. Also, the report said a landslide in eastern Idaho disrupted service by about a day on a BNSF line.

In its weekly "Grain Transportation Report," the U.S. Department of Agriculture said rail shipments of grain to the PNW during the week ended March 8 slipped to 7,491 from the prior week’s 7,593. However, year-to-date shipments there remain higher than a year ago.

Active barge movement

Barge grain shipments during the week ended March 11 totaled 847,300 tons, up 4% from the prior week and up 73% from a year ago, according to the transportation report.

Grain vessel loadings at the Gulf remained active, with USDA reporting 46 vessels loaded during the week of March 9, up 12% from a year ago. Sixty-seven vessels are expected to be loaded in the next 10 days, up 29% from a year ago, the report said.

In the rail sector, grain car loadings totaled 23,991 for the week ended March 4, up 13% from the prior week and up 8% from a year ago.

For truckers, the U.S. average diesel fuel price dropped 2 cents during the week ended March 13 to $2.58/gal. That is up 47 cents from a year ago.

USDA’s latest weekly grain inspections are detailed in the following table and charts.


Corn export destinations, bushels – week ended March 16 – USDA



Soybean export destinations, bushels – week ended March 16 –USDA

Wheat export destinations, bushels – week ended March 16 – USDA

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