Corn Inspections Rebound
For the week ending October 27, total inspections of corn for export reached .774 million metric tons (mmt), up 46 percent from the previous week, and 63 percent above the same time last year. Corn inspections rebounded primarily due to increased shipments to Asia. Wheat inspections increased 23 percent from the past week, and inspections of soybeans increased 4 percent. Total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export reached 4.14 mmt, up 11 percent from the previous week, up 26 percent from last year, and 34 percent above the 3-year average. Weekly grain inspections also surpassed the previous high for the year. Inspections jumped 51 percent in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) to a record 1.37 mmt, while Mississippi Gulf inspections increased 3 percent, to 2.16 mmt. Outstanding export sales (unshipped) of grain continued to increase for wheat and corn but decreased for soybeans.
Grain Vessel Activity Stays Strong, while Ocean Freight Rates Remain Relatively Low
Amid the peak of the U.S. corn, sorghum and soybean harvest, grain vessel loading activity in the U.S. Gulf has remained strong. During the past four weeks beginning on October 6 and ending on October 27, an average of 48 ocean-going vessels were loaded per week, and 75 vessels are expected within the next 10 days. During the previous four weeks beginning September 8 and ending September 29, an average of 44 vessels were loaded per week and 69 vessels were expected within the next 10 days. Meanwhile, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $31.75 per metric ton (mt), and from the PNW to Japan was $18 per mt. The rates remained unchanged for two consecutive weeks. The rates were 3 and 6 percent above last year, but were 4 and 2 percent lower than the 4-year average, respectively.
Highest Weekly Lock Tonnages in Nearly 13 Years
For the week ending October 29, downbound grain barge movements on the locking portions of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers reached 1.272 million tons, the highest tonnage since mid-December 2003. So far during the fourth quarter, average weekly downbound grain movement has been 0.94 million tons, up 45 percent from fourth quarter 2015, 27 percent higher than the 5-year average. During the October 29 weekly tonnage surge, barge spot rates increased significantly, however, as of November 1, spot rates have declined for most river segments. The rate decline is occurring as the Nation’s fall harvest nears completion. As of October 30, USDA’s Crop Progress Report showed the projected record soybean crop was 87 percent harvested, compared to 76 percent last week and 2 percentage points above the 5-year average. The corn crop was 75 percent harvested, the same as the 5-year average but 14 percent above last week.