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Weekly Grain Movement – March 6, 2017

Ron-Chapple-Stock/Thinkstock Barge going downstream
Grain barges loaded as Mississippi opening moves north.

Grain barges are being loaded in the Quad Cities area on the Mississippi River as shippers prepare for the opening of navigation there later this week.

River traffic has been under way further south near St. Louis. Basis bids for corn and soybeans at the Gulf eased in the past week due in part to the expectation of increased barge shipments.

“It would be safe to say that we will see the basis drop some more as more volume hits the river,” said one shipper.

Also weighing on gulf bids has been the seasonal competition from South American corn and soybeans.

Corn for March shipment to the Gulf was bid 42 over the CBOT May this week and April is 40. Soybeans for March and April were bid 23 over the May, with the April bid down about 2 cents from a week ago. Bids for the March positions for both crops switched to the May contract in the past week as March futures went into delivery.

While winter is typically slow in the river markets as navigation closes north of St. Louis, USDA last week said February barge shipments of grain, where navigation remained open, totaled 675,000 tons, the most since 2013 and up 6% than 2016.

Grain shipments to the PNW increased from the prior week although they continue to be affected by harsh winter weather that has slowed rail traffic. USDA on Monday said rail shipments of grain to the PNW were up 6% from the prior week, but for the four-week period rail shipments are down 1% from a year ago.

USDA said export inspections of crops from the PNW totaled 971,821 metric tons during the week ended March 2, up 32% from the week before.

Farmers stop selling
Farmer selling of old-crop corn and soybeans increased for about two days early last week following gains in the Chicago futures, but then quickly slowed.

On Monday, Midwest grain dealers said the telephones were quiet as farmers appeared willing to wait for the next jump in the futures market.

Fieldwork was at a standstill with fields in Iowa too soggy for equipment after recent rain and snow. Severe storms were due later on Monday for most of the Midwest with rain lingering on Tuesday in the eastern half of the region.

Active Grain Vessel Loading
Grain vessel loadings at the Gulf remained active with USDA reporting 51 vessels loaded during the week of Feb. 23, up 24% from a year ago. Seventy seven vessels are expected to be loaded in the next 10 days, up 45% from a year ago.

Barge grain shipments during the week ended February 25 totaled 538,300 tons, down 27% from the prior week and up 19% from a year ago, according to USDA’s Grain Transportation Report.

In the rail sector, grain car loadings totaled 22,811 for the week ended Feb. 18, up 11% from the prior week and up 1% from a year ago.

For truckers, the U.S. average diesel fuel price was about unchanged during the week ended February 27 to $2.58 per gallon. That is up 59 cents from a year ago.

USDA’s latest weekly grain inspections are detailed in the following table and charts.

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