According to today's USDA Grain Transportation Report, for the week of October 25, the St. Louis barge spot rate (GTR table 9) increased almost 22 percent from last week to $88.46 per ton. However, this rate is lower than the all-time peak of $105.85 per ton for the week of October 11.
Because of low water levels on the Mississippi River System (MRS), barge companies have little capacity in the spot market as they struggle to meet current commitments.
Future rates are also higher than normal: the current low barge availability, combined with new export sales of soybeans (GTR table 14), have spurred demand for barges in November, December, and early next year. The St. Louis 1-month-rate (for November) reached $58.61 per ton, 384 percent higher than last year and 439 percent higher than the 5-year average.
The St. Louis 3-month-rate (for January) reached $33.99 per ton, 265 percent higher than last year and 270 percent higher than the 5-year average. In the near term, barge challenges and draft restrictions are likely to continue. However, by mid-November, the slightly above-normal rain forecast may begin to provide relief and help stabilize some portions of the MRS.
Read the full report here.