As of Aug. 21, barge spot rates for export grain dropped 1% to 14% compared to a week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported today.

This was similar to last week, Aug. 14, when rates dropped up to 13% from the previous week. Typically, barge rates begin rising gradually in late August, as barge operators prepare for a seasonal demand increase that occurs during harvest, the USDA said in its weekly Grain Transportation Report (GTR). However, year-to-date
tonnages for grain on the locking sections of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas rivers are down 8% compared to last year. During the same time frame, tonnages for corn are down 4% and soybeans are down 11%, the GTR reported.

Rates have dropped despite ongoing navigation issues that have disrupted traffic. Navigation on the lower Ohio River continues to be affected by repair work at Locks and Dam 52. Olmsted Locks and Dam will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 30 but it will not be fully operational until later this year. Ongoing navigation disruptions may continue on the lower Ohio River in the short term, GTR said.

For the week ending Aug. 18, barge grain movements totaled 711,798 tons, 25% less than the previous week and down 29% from the same period last year. For the week ending Aug. 18, 441 grain barges moved down river, 164 barges less than the previous week. There were 731 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 10% higher than the previous week, the USDA said.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.