Fourth Quarter 2017 Grain Inspections Below Previous Year

This article has been reprinted from the Jan. 11 Grain Transportation Report.

According to the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), total inspections of grain (wheat, corn, and soybeans) shipped from major U.S. ports reached 38 million metric tons (mmt) during the fourth quarter of 2017 (see figure 1). 

Total inspections of grain during the fourth quarter were 21 percent below the same quarter last year and 3 percent below the 5-year average, due in part to increased export competition from abroad. 

Grain transportation demand was also slower than expected during the fourth quarter, with lower shipments to Asia and Latin America.

Gulf: According to GIPSA, U.S. Gulf fourth quarter grain inspections reached 21 mmt, down 26 percent from last year and 10 percent below the 5-year average (see figure 1). 

Inspections of corn, soybeans, and wheat were down in the U.S. Gulf, with corn dropping 37 percent due to less demand from Asia. 

Rail deliveries of grain to the U.S. Gulf decreased 51 percent, and barge grain movements on the Mississippi River decreased 22 percent from the fourth quarter last year. 

Ocean freight rates, however, for shipping grain through the Gulf increased 11 percent from the third quarter 2017 and 29 percent from the fourth quarter last year.

Pacific Northwest: Fourth quarter Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections
reached 10.9 mmt, 16 percent below last year, but 7 percent above the 5-year average. 

Fourth quarter PNW corn inspections dropped 59 percent from last year during the same quarter, and PNW soybean inspections decreased 15 percent. 

Wheat inspections in the PNW, however, increased 9 percent, reaching 2.6 mmt. 

Rail deliveries of grain to the PNW decreased 15 percent from last year during the fourth quarter.

As in the Gulf, fourth quarter ocean freight rates for shipping grain from the PNW were 1 9 percent above the third quarter 2017 and 33 percent above the fourth quarter last year.

Great Lakes: Fourth quarter Atlantic-Great Lakes grain inspections reached 1.8 mmt, down 35 percent from last year and 24 percent below the 5-year average.

Interior: Fourth-quarter Interior grain inspections reached a record 4.1 mmt, up 8 percent from last year and 30 percent above the 5-year average. 

Fourth quarter Interior corn and soybean inspections increased 16 and 8 percent, respectively from last year, as shipments to Mexico increased. 

Lower Mexican demand for wheat caused Interior wheat inspections to decrease 32 percent from below last year.

Corn, Soybean and Wheat Inspections Down

Total inspections of corn reached 7.4 mmt during the fourth quarter, down 33 percent from last year and 8 percent below the 5-year average (see figure 2). 

PNW corn inspections dropped to .692 mmt, down 59 percent from last year due to decreased demand from Asia. U.S. corn inspections in the Gulf reached 4.6 mmt, down 37 percent from last year and 15 percent below the 5-year average. 

Atlantic-Great Lakes corn inspections reached .038 mmt, down 87 percent from last year and the lowest since 2012. 

Interior corn inspections were the third highest on record. 

Total corn exports for the 2017/18 marketing year are forecast to decrease 16 percent from 2016/17, according to the December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

Fourth quarter soybean inspections reached 25.8 mmt, down 17 percent from
last year and 1 percent below the 5-year average (see figure 2). 

Inspections of soybeans to Asia decreased 22 percent from last year, with shipments destined to China decreasing 23 percent from a year ago. U.S. Gulf
soybean inspections reached 14.7 mmt, down 21 percent from last year and 6 percent below the 5-year average.

However, PNW soybean inspections reached 7.6 mmt, which is 15 percent
below last year but 9 percent above the 5-year average. 

Soybeans inspections for the Atlantic-Great Lakes totaled 1.5 mmt, down 20 percent from last year and 14 percent below the 5-year average. 

Interior soybean inspections reached a record 1.8 mmt, up 8 percent from last year and 24 percent above the 5-year average.

According to the December WASDE estimate, soybean exports for the 2017/18 marketing year are expected to increase 3 percent from the past year.

Fourth quarter wheat inspections reached 4.7 mmt, down 17 percent from last year and 9 percent below the 5-year average (see figure 2). 

Gulf wheat inspections reached 1.7 mmt, down 22 percent from the previous
year due to falling demand from Asia and Africa. 

PNW wheat inspections reached 2.7 mmt, up 9 percent from last year and 12 percent above the 5-year average. Fourth quarter Atlantic-Great Lakes wheat
inspections totaled .197 mmt, down 61 percent from last year. 

Interior wheat inspections (.397 mmt) increased 44 percent for the same period. 

For the 2017/18 marketing year, the December WASDE estimates total wheat exports are expected to decrease 8 percent from the previous year.