On Sept. 26, spot barge rates for export grain from major originating areas increased 27% to 50% compared to last week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 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, according to the USDA's Sept. 28 Grain Transportation Report (GTR).
Barge operators say that shallow river conditions and Coast Guard restrictions on tow sizes have reduced cargo capacity and limited logistics, the GTR said. In addition, harvest pace is slower than average with the corn harvest at 11% harvested (compared to 17% for the five-year average) and soybean harvest at 10% (12% for the five-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 Sept. 20 were up 148% compared to the previous week, the USDA said.