Barge freight costs for moving grains from the Midwest rose sharply due to the continuing logistical problems over two weeks after Hurricane Ida hit the Delta Region. As grain handlers are scrambling to get operations going again at the Gulf of Mexico, China booked four to six bulk cargoes of soybeans from Brazil for shipping in October and November, which is the peak of the U.S. export period.
That agreement between China and Brazil is fueling industry concerns that terminal capacity at the Gulf will be limited into the next month. Cash grain traders tell Reuters that Gulf shipping problems are causing the cost for barge freight to rise along Midwest rivers. Unloading barges arriving at the Gulf is being delayed, which is creating a shortage of empty barges needed upriver as corn and soybean harvest revs up in the Midwest. Adding to the sense of urgency is the fact that crops are maturing faster than normal in key states like Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Southern states are also much farther along in their harvest than northern states. “You have these southern states, and you need to get all of that through the system before the really big volume comes from places like Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa,” says Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.