For the week ending November 20, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) from all major export regions continued to increase, reaching a record 3.89 million metric tons (mmt).
Grain inspections were up 5 percent from the past week, up 35 percent from last year, and were 47 percent above the 3-year average. The increase in total grain inspections was helped by a rebound in wheat and corn inspections, which increased 255 and 29 percent from the past week.
Parts of Upper Mississippi River Close Early for Winter
On November 20, the last barge shipment of the season traversed through Mississippi River Lock and Dam 2, near Hasting, MN, as ice conditions on the river made it too difficult for vessels to navigate.
The closure of this part of the river normally occurs about a week later, around November 27. Records indicate this unofficial closing of Lock 2 as the earliest since 1969.
The 2014 navigation season was also shortened by a late start earlier in the year when an unusually cold winter stopped traffic on parts of the Upper Mississippi River that were frozen until April 16. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses the winter closure time for repair an d maintenance of lock structures.
West Coast Labor Contract Negotiations Take a Break
On November 20, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced that “big table” labor negotiations for a new West Coast labor contract will break until December 2.
Subcommittee negotiations, which involve local port-specific issues, will continue. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) reports these continued negotiations could help with the overall “big table” negotiations. On November 18, a White House spokesman said “They’re at the table trying to work it out, and we’re confident that there’s a way forward. We continue to monitor the situation.”
On November 21, the chief executive officers of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle urged President Obama to reconsider by assigning federal mediators to help PMA and ILWU resolve pending contract negotiations.
New Publications: Wheat Transportation Profile
This week, AMS released a new report: Wheat Transportation Profile . The report examines the importance of the freight transportation system to wheat producers and consumers here and abroad. The report presents an overview of the U.S. wheat supply- and-demand factors that have transportation implications.
Snapshots by Sector
- Export Sales During the week ending November 13, unshipped balances of wheat, corn and soybeans totaled 39.3 mmt, down 14 percent from the same time last year. Corn weekly net export sales reached 908,000 mt, up 80 percent from the previous week; soybean sales totaled 483,000 mt, down 55 percent, and wheat reached 361,700 mt, down 13 percent.
- Rail U.S. railroads originated 23,313 carloads of grain during the week ending November 15, up 5 percent from last week, down 3 percent from last year, and 7 percent higher than the 3-year average. During the week ending November 20, average December non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $284 above tariff, $109 higher than last year. Average shuttle bids/offers per car were $113 below tariff, down $63 from last week and $648 lower than last year.
- Barge During the week ending November 22, barge grain movements totaled 967,950 tons–8.7 percent lower than the previous week but 10.4 percent higher than the same period last year. During the week ending November 22, 609 grain barges moved down river , down 9.6 percent from last week; 948 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans , down 7 percent from the previous week.
- Ocean During the week ending November 20, 47 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 4 percent less than the same period last year. Sixty-three vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 6 percent less than the same period last year. During the week ending November 21, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $44.50 per mt, down 3 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24 per mt, down 2 percent from the previous week.
- Fuel During the week ending November 24, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 3 cents from the previous week to $3.68 per gallon — down 22 cents from the same week last year.