KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US — Millers, merchandisers and grain traders last week continued to report improved railroad performance in the United States, especially in the Central Plains region as the winter wheat harvest moved steadily north and west. All welcomed the improvement and hoped more regular car placement at origins would continue into the crucial harvest period for spring and durum wheat as well as row crops.
In the first two weeks of July, rail cars of hard red winter wheat were offered on the spot market in greater volumes than had been received in late May and June. Most trading days saw 20 cars or more and two days featured more than 80 cars offered on spot.
US weekly rail traffic in the week ended July 10 totaled 451,825 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.6% from the same week in 2020. Carloads in the week totaled 210,297, up 4% compared with the same week last year, while US weekly intermodal volume was 241,528 containers and trailers, down 2% compared to 2020. Of the 10 carload commodity groups for US traffic, four posted year-over-year increases for the week: Metallic ores and metals, coal, chemicals and forest products. Grain carloads totaled 17,136, down 2,120 carloads, or 11%, from the same week a year earlier, bringing cumulative grain carloads in 2021 to 659,103 for an average of 24,411 per week, an increase of 18% compared with the same period last year.
Canadian railroads reported 64,203 carloads in the week ended July 10, down 6%, and 51,982 intermodal units, down 21% compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 27 weeks of 2021, Canadian cumulative rail traffic totaled 4,037,939 carloads, containers and trailers, up 8%. Canadian grain carloads in the week totaled 5,136, down 40% from the same week in 2020, bringing 2021 cumulative Canadian grain carloads to 261,415 for a weekly average of 9,682, up 14% compared with the same period last year.
Mexican railroads reported 20,596 carloads in the week ended July 10, up 10% over the same week in 2020, and 15,866 intermodal units, up 5%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 27 weeks of 2021 was 984,372 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 6% from the same point last year. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 2,703, up 8% from a year earlier, bringing the 27-week 2021 total to 54,951 carloads for a weekly average of 2,035 carloads, down 15% compared with the same period a year earlier.
North American rail volume on 12 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads in the week ended July 10 totaled 295,096 carloads, up 2% compared with the same week in 2020, and 309,376 intermodal units, down 6% from last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 604,472 carloads and intermodal units, down 2%. North American rail volume for the first 27 weeks of 2021 was 18,808,728 carloads and intermodal units, up 12% compared with 2020. North American grain carloads in the week totaled 24,975, down 18% from the same week last year, bringing the 2021 total for the continent to 975,469 for an average of 36,128 carloads per week, up 15% from the same period in 2020.
The average July shuttle secondary railcar bids-offers were $308 per car below tariff for the week ended July 1, the Agricultural Marketing Service said. The average bid-offer was $49 less than the prior week and $345 lower than the same week in 2020. There were no non-shuttle bids-offers in the week.
Barged grain movements in the week ended July 3 totaled 771,472 tons, down 11% from the previous week, but up 2% compared with
the same period last year, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In the same week, 511 grain barges moved down river, 36 more barges than the previous week, the Corps and AMS said. There were 559 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, a 32% increase over the previous week.
Ocean freight activity
In the week ended July 1, the latest for which data was available, 26 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 21% fewer than the same period last year, the USDA said in its weekly Grain Transportation Report.
In the 10 days from July 2, 50 vessels were expected to be loaded, an increase of 19% from the same period last year.
The rate for shipping one tonne of grain from the US Gulf to Japan on July 1 was $82, up 9% from the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $46 per tonne, up 7% from the previous week.
In the week ended July 5, the US average diesel fuel price increased 3.1¢ from the previous week to $3.331 per gallon, 89.4¢ higher than the same week last year, the Energy Information Administration said It was the 10th consecutive week that the national average diesel price had increased. By July 12, the average US on-highway diesel price per gallon by region was:
East Coast $3.312
New England $3.245
Central Atlantic $3.477
Lower Atlantic $3.213
Gulf Coast $3.083
Rocky Mountain $3.594
West Coast $3.905
West Coast less California $3.568California $4.187