Barge Rates Surge as Adverse Navigation Conditions Disrupt River Traffic

This article is taken from USDA's Sept. 28 Grain Transportation Report:

On September 26, spot barge rates for export grain from major originating areas increased 27 to 50 percent compared to last week.

Low water conditions have impacted barge movements on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers, forcing barge operators to decrease drafts for barges, which is reducing barge cargo capacity.

Barge operators have indicated shallow river conditions and Coast Guard restrictions on tow sizes have reduced cargo capacity and limited logistics.

In addition, harvest pace is slower than average with the corn harvest at 11 percent harvested (compared to 17 percent for the 5-year average) and soybean harvest at 10 percent (12 percent for the 5-year average).

At this early harvest stage and with adverse navigation conditions, elevated barge rates could continue well into mid-October.

With the delays on the waterways, weekly railcar deliveries to the Mississippi Gulf for the week ending September 20 were up 148 percent compared to the previous week.