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Export Inspections of U.S. Grain Remain Low Post-Ida, as Cargill Restarted its Westwego Terminal on Monday

Reuters writer Karl Plume reported this week that, “U.S. grain exports slumped to their lowest level in years last week as shippers struggled to restart loading operations along the Louisiana Gulf Coast after Hurricane Ida flooded and damaged grain terminals and knocked out power across the region, preliminary data showed on Monday.

Weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grain inspections data, an early indicator of shipments abroad, showed the volume of corn weighed and certified for export last week was the lowest in 8-1/2 years as no grain was inspected along the Louisiana Gulf Coast, the busiest outlet for U.S. crops.

Soybean inspections were up only slightly from the prior week’s seven-year low as only a single large bulk grain ship bound for top importer China was loaded last week in the Pacific Northwest and none at the Gulf, USDA data showed.”

Mr. Plume explained that, “Most of the nearly dozen large grain terminals dotted along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico escaped the storm with only minor damage, but the region’s devastated power grid has hobbled the recovery.

More than 50 bulk vessels were lined up along the lower Mississippi River on Monday waiting to dock and load with grain once terminals reopen, and only a handful of ships had moved over the weekend, according to an industry vessel lineup report and Refinitiv Eikon shipping data.”

“Ida Puts America’s Grain Export Infrastructure to the Test,” by Kevin Varley. Bloomberg News (September 2, 2021).

Also this week, Dow Jones writer Kirk Maltais reported that, “Export inspections for U.S. grain are low again this week, with Gulf-area ports still attempting to repair and reopen from damage due to Hurricane Ida earlier this month.”

“Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana earlier this month as a Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. Damage from the storm has impeded shipping grains out of ports in the area,” the Dow Jones article said.

Last week, Reuters News reported that, “Global grains trader Archer-Daniels-Midland Co expects to resume export loadings at its Louisiana Gulf Coast terminals in Ama and Reserve by the end of the month, while repairs at its Destrehan terminal following Hurricane Ida will take ‘a few weeks longer,’ the company said on Thursday.”

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service indicated in its weekly Grain Transportation Report from September 9th that, “The barge, truck, and rail industries have worked to restore service and assess damage following Hurricane Ida. Earlier this week, the U.S. Coast Guard opened the Lower Mississippi to barge and vessel traffic, with some restrictions. Barge operators are focused on surveying and clearing river obstructions. At the Port of New Orleans, all terminals—both container and breakbulk—are open. One grain elevator in Baton Rouge has reopened; however, the remainder of the elevators along the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area remain closed because of ongoing power outages and logistical challenges.”

And Bloomberg writer Elizabeth Elkin reported on Friday that, “Hurricane Ida, which battered southeast Louisiana, continues to roil food shipments after the storm damaged ports near New Orleans, the biggest U.S. agricultural trading hub.”

In more recent news developments on this issue, Reuters writer Karl Plume reported this week that, “Another grain export terminal near Louisiana’s Gulf Coast shuttered for two weeks by Hurricane Ida restarted operations this week even as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Nicholas battered the region on Tuesday.

Global grain trader Cargill Inc said it had reopened its Westwego, Louisiana, grain export terminal and on Monday unloaded its first grain barge since Ida came ashore on Aug. 29 and crippled shipments from the busiest U.S. grain export hub.

Mr. Plume noted that, “Power was finally restored to Cargill’s heavily damaged terminal in Reserve, Louisiana, on Monday for the first time since Ida, but the company is still assessing damages from that storm and developing ‘phased reopening plans,’ Cargill spokeswoman April Nelson said.

“Cargill is monitoring rains from Nicholas on Tuesday, but it has not confirmed any impact on recovery efforts, Nelson said.

“Rival exporters Louis Dreyfus Co and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co have been loading export shipments for several days, while a facility owned by Bunge Ltd remains shuttered, according to the companies and shipping sources.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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