The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service says the number of grain barges being unloaded in New Orleans during September and October dropped significantly.
An AMS report says the number of barges is 20-30 percent lower than in recent years. The slowdown coincides with river closures and restrictions on barge companies that reduced the bar tow. Typically, 30-40 barges can move down the river together, and the new restriction says no more than 25.
The tonnage movement has been even weaker. Since September, tonnage going through locks was down more than 40 percent below recent years.
The significant decline in tonnage is consistent with reports of how barges have been forced to reduce their draft. Barges are normally loaded to an 11-12-foot-deep draft during the fall. However, companies started imposing nine-foot barge draft restrictions in October.
That can lead to a reduction of 10,000-15,000 bushels per barge. Tonnage appeared to pick up in October.