USDA reports lower grain transportation demand

Lower export sales caused by uncompetitive U.S. farm prices, higher freight rates and China’s cancellation of orders

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The USDA has released the weekly Grain Transportation Report for May 11, 2023. The report provides updates and analysis on U.S. grain export levels and transportation demand for corn, soybeans, and wheat.

This week's report covers the ongoing labor talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The negotiations  are said to be nearing their final stretch, according to the Wall Street Journal. An agreement has been reached regarding staffing at non-automated terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but no details have been announced. Salaries and benefits remain the only major issue on the table, and negotiations have been ongoing for a year. A final agreement is expected in a few months, after member caucuses have voted. The prolonged negotiations have caused some volatility in the marketplace and caused some importers to shift cargo to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports.

The report also discusses the impact of the decline in US grain exports on transportation demand, specifically for corn and soybeans in the current marketing year (MY) 2022/23. The decrease in exports is attributed to logistical issues, uncompetitive US farm prices, and other factors, with outstanding sales down significantly compared to the same period in MY 2021/22. The three largest buyers of US corn in MY 2022/23 have been Mexico, China, and Japan, with China's recent cancellation of bookings leading to a marketing year low in US corn exports. The decline in exports of soybeans is also discussed, with outstanding sales down 67 percent from the same period last year.

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