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Basis Along River System Drops Again on Record Barge Freight

Farmers are being forced to store corn due to gridlock.

Published on: Nov 6, 2008

Basis along the river system continued its fall collapse, crushed by barge freight rates that reached all-time highs, surpassing levels seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The cost of shipping corn down the Illinois River to the Gulf rose to an astonishing $1.33 a bushel as a lack of barges and the unusually slow pace of corn harvest caused a market meltdown.

The situation appeared to be a classic Catch 22: Many barges are waiting to move upriver to discharge cargoes of fertilizer and road salt, but can't make the trip until there's enough corn to load for southbound trips. Gridlock is the result, with terminals in effect punting by jacking up their basis so much that corn must be stored.

With basis so weak at areas feeding the river, storage is a slam-dunk. Barge freight for December delivery should allow basis to firm 60 cents or more, assuming the shipping situation gets straightened out. To read Bryce Knorr's complete weekly basis review, click HERE.