Jan 14, 2022

Grain Inspections Down from Same Time Last Year

From Q4 2020 to Q4 2021, grain inspections fell 18%, reflecting a sharp drop in wheat inspections

source: USDA Grain Transportation Report

According to USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), inspections of grain (wheat, corn, and soybeans) shipped from major U.S. ports reached 43.4 million metric tons (MMT) in fourth quarter 2021, 8% above the fourth-quarter 5-year average.

From fourth quarter 2020 to fourth quarter 2021 (year to year), however, grain inspections fell 18%, mainly reflecting a sharp drop in wheat inspections.

That drop was largely driven by falling Asian demand, particularly from China and Indonesia. High U.S. wheat export prices combined with rising global wheat production reduced the competitiveness of U.S. wheat. Down slightly year to year, corn and soybean exports were 9% and 16% above the 5-year average respectively.

Year-to-Year Breakdown by Region

U.S. Gulf. Grain inspections in the U.S. Gulf reached 23.6 MMT in fourth quarter 2021, down 23% year to year and up 2% from the 5-year average. Year to year, U.S. Gulf corn inspections fell 13%, mainly reflecting lower exports to Asia and Latin America. Soybean inspections in the U.S. Gulf declined 26%, primarily because of lower exports to China.

U.S. Gulf wheat inspections decreased 35%, with lower shipments to Africa and Latin America.

Rail deliveries of grain to U.S. Gulf ports dropped 25%, and barge grain movements on the Mississippi River to the U.S. Gulf fell 38%. From third quarter 2021 to fourth quarter 2021 (quarter to quarter), ocean freight rates for shipping grain through the Gulf were down slightly because of lower market activity, but rates increased year to year.

Pacific Northwest: Fourth-quarter 2021 PNW grain inspections totaled 12.3 MMT — a 15% decrease year to year and a 12% increase from the 5-year average. Year to year, rail deliveries of grain to PNW ports were down 4% as well. At 1.1 MMT, fourth-quarter 2021 PNW corn inspections were down 39% from a year ago, with diminished corn shipments to Asia and other destinations.

Also, PNW soybean inspections rose 6% to 9.7 MMT, and PNW soybean inspections destined to China rose slightly. PNW wheat inspections reached 1.4 MMT, down 60% from fourth quarter 2020.

Atlantic-Great Lakes: Atlantic-Great Lakes grain inspections reached 1.8 MMT in fourth quarter 2021, down 20% year to year and 2% below the 5-year average. Corn inspections in the Atlantic-Great Lakes ports rose 7% year to year, as shipments to Asia and Latin America increased significantly. However,
soybean and wheat inspections decreased 18% and 34%, respectively. These drops were largely due to lower shipments to Asia and Latin America, which received more wheat from the U.S. Gulf and PNW regions.

Interior: Interior grain inspections reached a record 5.6 MMT in fourth quarter 2021, up 6% year to year and 30% above the 5-year average. The increases were mainly due to persistently elevated shipments to Mexico. Broken down more specifically, Interior inspections of corn rose 23% year to year; soybeans fell 10%; and wheat fell 1%. At 2.9 MMT, Interior corn inspections were 41% above the 5-year average.

Breakdown by Commodity

Corn: Fourth-quarter 2021 corn inspections decreased 9% year to year and were 8% above the 5-year average. Total U.S. corn exports for marketing year (MY) 2021/22 are projected to decrease 12% from MY 2020/21, according to USDA’s January World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE).

Soybeans: Fourth-quarter 2021 soybean inspections totaled over 28.9 MMT — a 16% year-to-year decrease. As inspections destined to China continued to fall, purchases from other countries continued to rise or remained steady.

Inspections of China-bound soybeans accounted for 64% of total U.S. soybean inspections and 84% of U.S. soybeans destined to Asia. According to the January WASDE report, U.S. soybean exports for MY 2021/22 are expected to decrease 10% from MY 2020/21.

Wheat: Wheat inspections totaled over 3.4 MMT in fourth quarter 2021, down 45% year to year and 39% below the 5-year average. The January WASDE report projects total MY 2021/22 U.S. wheat exports to decrease 17% from MY 2020/21.

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