KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US — Grain inspections in the third week of June were the lowest weekly volume since January 2019, the US Department of Agriculture said in its latest Grain Transportation Update.
In the week ended June 24, total inspections of corn, wheat, and soybeans for export from all major US export regions totaled 1.4 million tonnes, down 45% from the previous week, down 33% from the same week in 2020, and down 35% from the recent three-year average for the week. Grain inspections were the lowest since the .500-tonnes level of early January 2019.
“Compared to the previous week, inspections of corn were down 4%; wheat, down 48%; and soybeans, down 49%,” the USDA said. “These large drops in inspections reflected a 69% decrease in shipments through the Mississippi Gulf. Mississippi Gulf exports were down notably to Asia and South America. Pacific Northwest grain inspections decreased 10% from the previous week.”
US rail traffic in the week ended July 3 totaled 512,919 carloads and intermodal units, up 17% compared with the same week in 2020 the Association of American Railroads said in a July 7 report. In the week, carloads totaled 236,846 units, up 23% from the same week a year ago, and intermodal volume totaled 276,073 containers and trailers, up 13% compared to 2020.
In a reversal from most weeks in 2021 so far, grain carloads were the sole US rail commodity category to post a lower carload count versus a year earlier. Grain carloads totaled 19,863, down 794 carloads, or 4%, from a year earlier, bringing the 2021 cumulative grain carload count to 641,967 for an average of 24,691 per week, a 19% increase compared with the same period in 2020.
For the month of June, 19 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains over June 2020, including grain. The sole decline was in farm products excluding grain, down 425 carloads or 11%.
“US rail volumes in the second quarter of 2021 reflect an economy that is in much better shape than it was but still has room to grow,” said John T. Gray, senior vice president at AAR. “In the second quarter, total US carloads were the highest since the fourth quarter of 2019; carloads excluding coal were the highest since the third quarter of 2019; and intermodal and chemical volumes were both the highest for any quarter in history. Carloads of steel-related commodities were also relatively strong in the second quarter, reflecting higher demand as the industrial economy continues to recover.”
Canadian railroads reported 72,692 carloads for the week, up 5%, and 64,113 intermodal units, up 5% compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 26 weeks of 2021, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,921,754 carloads, containers, and trailers, up 9%. Canadian grain carloads in the week totaled 6,772, down 26% from the same week in 2020, bringing the 2021 cumulative Canadian grain carloads to 256,279 for an average of 9,857 per week, up 16% from the same period in 2020. Grain was among three Canadian carload commodity categories to post weekly year-over-year declines, the others being farm products and food excluding grain (down 25%) and forest products (down 7%).
Mexican railroads reported 20,394 carloads for the week, up 15% compared with the same week last year, and 15,280 intermodal units, up 11%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 26 weeks of 2021 was 937,798 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 5% from the same period in 2020. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 2,244, down fractionally from the same week a year earlier, bringing 2021 cumulative Mexican grain carloads to 51,214 for an average of 1,970 per week, down 18% from the same week a year earlier. Two other Mexican carload commodity groups declined: chemicals (down 22%) and forest products (down 15%).
North American rail volume for the week ended July 3 on 12 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 329,932 carloads, up 18% over the same week in 2020, and 355,466 intermodal units, up 11% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 685,398 carloads and intermodal units, up 14%. North American rail volume for the first 26 weeks of 2021 was 18,194,144 carloads and intermodal units, up 12% compared with 2020.
The average July shuttle secondary rail car bids-offers per car were $258 below tariff for the week ended June 24, the latest week for which data was released by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). That is an $18 increase from the previous week, but a $287 decrease compared with the same week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids-offers in the week.
Barged grain movements in the week ended June 26 totaled 753,434 tons, the US Army Corps of Engineers said. The total was down 6% from the previous week and down 31% compared with the same period in 2020. In that week, 475 grain barges moved down river, 14 fewer than in the previous week, the Corps and USDA said. There were 424 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, down 33% from the previous week.
Ocean freight activity
Twenty-one oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf in the week ended June 24, 30% fewer than the same week in 2020. In the 10 days beginning June 25, 37 vessels were expected to be loaded, an 8% decrease from the same period last year. On June 24, the rate for shipping one tonne of grain from the US Gulf to Japan was $75, up 2% from the previous week, the AMS said. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $43 a tonne, up 1% from the previous week.
In the week ended June 28, the U.S. average diesel fuel price was $3.30 per gallon, up 1.3¢ from the previous week and 87¢ higher than the same week in 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration. In that week, regional average on-highway diesel fuel prices per gallon were:
East Coast $3.290
New England $3.238
Central Atlantic $3.451
Lower Atlantic $3.191
Gulf Coast $3.044
Rocky Mountain $3.433
West Coast $3.839
West Coast less California $3.494California $4.127