For the week of Oct. 18, the St. Louis barge spot rate fell steeply to $72.58 per ton from its peak of $105.85 per ton for the week of Oct. 11, the U.S. Dpeartment of Agriculture said today.

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, the USDA said in its weekly Grain Transportation Report released today. Even with the rate drop, the spot rate remains up 130% from last year and 260% from the three-year average.

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

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