Hurricane Harvey impacts U.S. grain deliveries via rail

02.10.2017

Widespread flooding from Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on the Texas coast on Aug. 25, reduced rail service along the Gulf Coast and all but halted regional grain exports through the first week of September.

Interruptions in grain transportation in the Gulf region have the potential to be particularly impactful on shipments of the U.S. wheat crop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) reports that an average of 46% of total U.S. wheat exports ship from Gulf ports in Texas and Louisiana. For the week ending Aug. 31, there were virtually no wheat inspections reported for Gulf ports due to the shutdown of rail and port operations.

For the week ending Sept. 7, no wheat was inspected for export at either South Texas or East Gulf ports, while North Texas inspected a relatively modest 50,318 tonnes of hard red winter wheat, down from 160,512 tonnes for the same week in 2016. Wheat export inspections are anticipated to accelerate as rail service that provides access to Gulf loading facilities is restored. Although some railroad repairs may take months, others are expected to be restored more quickly.

The Port of Houston, which is a 25-mile-long complex of 150-plus private and public industrial terminals along the 52-mile-long Houston Ship Channel, closed in preparation of the storm making landfall. The port officially began recovery operations on Sept. 1. Fourteen container vessels have been serviced by a crew of 120 at Barbours Cut and Bayport terminals and those containers handled 3,000 additional gate transactions.  


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