Highest barge rates in six years possible

Barge operators expect strong demand for their services during this year’s harvest, especially in October, when there is widespread harvesting of the corn and soybean crops, according to the most recent USDA Grain Transportation Report.

As of Sept. 2, the average barge rate from the Illinois River to the Mississippi River Gulf for October delivery was 773% of tariff ($35.84 per ton), 43% higher than the 5-year average, according to the U.S. Department of Agiculture. The October St. Louis barge rate was 763% of tariff ($30.42 per ton),  56% higher than the five-year average. Grain shippers may decide to buy barge freight for October now or wait until then and buy at the weekly rate, which could be higher or lower than the October rate being quoted now, the USDA said. The last time rates exceeded these levels was in 2008, when flooding interfered with barge logistics on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

During the week ending Aug. 30 barge grain movements totaled 715,219 tons—19% higher than the previous week and 413% higher than the same period last year, according to the Grain Transportation Report. During the week ending Aug. 30, 457 grain barges moved down river, up 20.6% from last week; 474 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 0.2% from the previous week.

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