USDA Grain Transportation Report 1 (10/20): Barge Spot Rates Drop Sharply, Despite Ongoing River Challenges

According to today's USDA Grain Transportation Report, for the week of October 18, the St. Louis barge spot rate (GTR table 9) fell precipitously to $72.58 per ton from its peak of $105.85 per ton for the week of October 11.

Amid uncertainty about when barge traffic will normalize, some grain shippers have delayed deliveries until later in the year, which has softened demand for barges. Nonetheless, the spot rate remains up 130 percent from last year and up 260 percent from the 3-year average.

Although spot rates have fallen, water levels on the Lower Mississippi River (LMR) continue to be an issue, with the river gauge at Memphis dropping to a record low of 10.76 feet below sea level on October 18.

On the Ohio River (which feeds a significant portion of the LMR’s water), low water levels have delayed barge traffic because of groundings and closures for dredging work. Periodic closures for dredging, as well as tow and draft restrictions, are expected to persist at least through October based on forecast precipitation.

Read the full report here.