KANSAS CITY — Grain transportation markets were mostly quiet last week. Offerings at the Kansas City and Minneapolis gateways were limited.
In light of a large Kansas harvest projected by the Wheat Quality Council’s hard winter wheat tour following significant moisture events, shippers were heartened to hear Union Pacific Railroad at auction on June 1 sold cars at tariff for last-half July and both halves of August and September.
The average June shuttle railcar bids-offers per car on the secondary market were $281 below tariff in the week ended May 27, down $38 per car from the previous week and $188 lower than the same week in 2020, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. There were no non-shuttle bids-offers.
North American rail volume for the week ended May 29 on 12 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 341,112 carloads, up 28% compared with the same week last year, and 376,337 intermodal units, up 28% compared with the same week in 2020, the Association of American Railroads indicated in its weekly report. North American grain carloads in the week totaled 36,369, up 8% from the same week a year earlier.
North American rail volume for the first 21 weeks of 2021 totaled 14,727,824 carloads and intermodal units, up 12% compared with 2020.
Total US rail traffic in the week ended May 29 was 530,225 carloads and intermodal units, up 34% from the same week in 2020. Included were 243,304 carloads, up 35% from 2020 and 286,921 containers and trailers, up 33% from 2020. Each of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020, including grain carloads, which totaled 25,450, a 20% increase from 2020.
For the month of May, US railroads originated 964,356 carloads (up 30% year over year), 1,151,824 containers and trailers (up 26% from the same month last year) for a combined total of 2,116,180 carloads and intermodal units, up 28% from May 2020.
“US rail volumes in May 2021 were encouraging,” said John T. Gray, senior vice president of AAR. “Total carloads were the most for any month since October 2019 on a weekly average basis. In May, 18 of the 20 carload categories we track had carload gains over May 2020, while 12 of the 20 had gains over May 2019. Meanwhile, intermodal just had the best January to May period ever for US railroads. Railroads hope to build on these gains in the months ahead as they help the economy return to strong, sustainable growth.”
Canadian railroads reported 76,598 carloads in the week ended May 29, up 11% from 2020, and 72,839 intermodal units, up 15% compared with the same week in 2020. Canadian grain carloads in the week totaled 8,277, down 9% from 2020. For the first 21 weeks of 2021, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,184,981 carloads, containers and trailers, up 9%, including 214,715 grain carloads, up 24% from the same period last year.
Mexican railroads reported 21,210 carloads in the week ended May 29, a 21% increase from the same week last year, and 16,577 intermodal units, up 11%. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 2,642, down 18% from the same week a year earlier, bringing cumulative 2021 grain carloads to 40,166 for an average of 1,913 per week, also down 18% from 2020.
Barge grain movements in the week ended May 29 totaled 860,760 tons, down 16% from the prior week, but up 9% compared with the same period in 2020, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. In the same week, 535 grain barges moved down river, 43 fewer barges than the prior week, the Corps and AMS said. There were 777 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 9% higher than the previous week.
Ocean freight activity
In the week ended May 27, 33 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 15% fewer than in the same week a year earlier, the AMS said. In the 10 days beginning May 28, 38 vessels were expected to be loaded, 10% fewer than the same week in 2020. The rate for shipping one tonne of grain from the US Gulf to Japan was $66 in May 27, unchanged from the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $38.50 per tonne, also unchanged from the previous week.
The US average diesel fuel price in the week ended May 31 increased 0.2¢ from the previous week to $3.255 per gallon, 86.9¢ above the same week last year, according to the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.
The average on-highway diesel fuel price in the week ended May 31 by region, and change from the previous week in dollars per gallon:
East Coast $3.239 +0.020
New England $3.165 +0.018
Central Atlantic $3.414 +0.010
Lower Atlantic $3.135 +0.028
Midwest $3.197 +0.025
Gulf Coast $3.027 +0.007
Rocky Mountain $3.377 +0.009
West Coast $3.762 +0.024
West Coast less California $3.410 +0.036
California $4.055 +0.014