First Quarter Grain Inspections Down, But Above Average

This article was reprinted from the April 12 USDA Grain Transportation Report.

During the first quarter of 2018, grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) inspected for export from all U.S. ports reached 31.3 million metric tons (mmt). 

Total inspections of grain were down 12 percent from last year and 6 percent above the 5-year average, according to USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) (see table). 

First quarter inspections were down from last year for corn, soybeans, and wheat. 

Total inspections of grain dropped, mainly due to increasing export competition abroad and lower demand from three major importers of U.S. grain (Asia, Latin America, and Africa). 

Inspections of grain in the Gulf were below last year’s total, but Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections increased from last year as the increased ocean rate spread favored shipments through the PNW.

Gulf Inspections: First quarter grain inspections at U.S. Gulf ports reached 16.7 mmt, down 24 percent from last year and 5 percent below the 5-year average (see table). 

First quarter Gulf corn inspections dropped 32 percent from last year. Soybean and wheat inspections in the Gulf decreased 16 and 17 percent, respectively, from last year. 

First quarter Gulf inspections of grain destined for Asia, Latin America, and Africa experienced significant decreases, compared to last year. 

U.S. Gulf rail deliveries of grain to port, in the first quarter, decreased 49 percent from last year (see GTR Table 3, April 5, 2018). 

Barge movements of grain through the lock sections of the Mississippi River were about 21 percent below last year, during the first quarter, mostly due
to river delays.

PNW Inspections: First quarter grain inspections in the PNW reached a record 10.4 mmt, up 6 percent from last year and 20 percent above the 5-year average (see table). 

First quarter rail deliveries of grain to PNW ports increased slightly from last year (see GTR Table 3, April 5, 2018). 

First quarter PNW corn inspections increased 24 percent from last year, to a record 4.5 mmt. 

PNW soybean inspections increased 10 percent from last year while inspections of wheat, decreased 18 percent.

Atlantic and Great Lakes Inspections: Atlantic and Great Lakes first quarter grain inspections decreased 9 percent from last year, to .633 mmt. 

Inspections of grain in the Atlantic and Great Lakes were 27 percent below the 5-year average. 

Corn and soybean inspections were down in the Atlantic and Great Lakes due to smaller shipments to Asia. Conversely, wheat inspections in the regions increased 89 percent, due to increased demand from Mexico and Africa.

Interior Inspections: First quarter Interior grain inspections reached 3.5 mmt, up 5 percent from last year and 30 percent above the 5-year average. 

Inspections of corn in the Interior increased 4 percent from last year, due mainly to increased shipments to Mexico. 

Interior soybean inspections reached a record high of 1.4 mmt, up 16 percent from last year, due primarily to a 35 percent increase in shipments to Mexico. 

Interior wheat inspections dropped 21 percent from last year, as shipments to Mexico decreased notably.

Corn and Soybean Inspections: First quarter corn inspections reached 13.5 mmt, down 15 percent from last year (see figure).

Inspections of corn, however, were 33 percent above the 5- year average. 

First quarter corn inspections decreased 32 percent from last year in the
Gulf, but increased notably in the PNW, as shipments to Asia remained steady.

First quarter soybean inspections reached 12.6 mmt, down 7 percent from last year and 7 percent below the 5-year average (see figure). 

Due in part to barge delays in route to the Gulf in February, first quarter soybeans inspected for export to China (6.2 mmt) decreased 17 percent from last year. 

Gulf soybean inspections reached 7.2 mmt, down 16 percent from last year and 12 percent below the 5-year average. 

PNW soybean inspections reached 3.4 mmt, up 10 percent from last year but dropped percent below the 5-year average.

Wheat Inspections: First quarter wheat inspections reached 5.2 mmt, down 17 percent from last year and 11 percent below the 5-year average (see figure). 

U.S. wheat inspections dropped primarily due to increasing global export competition. Export shipments of wheat decreased to Asia and Latin America.

Market Outlook: According to the March World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, the 2017/18 forecast for U.S. corn exports is an expected 9 percent increase from last year, but was unchanged from the previous month. 

Wheat exports are projected to decrease 12 percent from last year, but remained the same from month to month. 

The March forecast for 2017/18 soybean exports is down 5 percent from last year but was unchanged from March. 

Cumulative (shipped) marketing year-to-date export sales for corn, soybeans and wheat are running below last year by 16 percent (see GTR Table 12). 

Shipped grain exports, however, could rebound in the months ahead if outstanding (unshipped) export sales remain strong.