Unfilled grain car orders increased nearly 50% in 2021

Recent analysis by American Farm Bureau finds the number of unfilled grain car orders increased by nearly 50 percent last year.

Ag economist Danny Munch tells Brownfield unfilled orders are a day or more late to buyers like grain elevators, and many waited much longer to get the railcars they needed.

“Over half of those orders that were one or more days overdue were also 11 or more days overdue which really shows some of the severity of that disruption,” he explains.

Munch says persistent labor shortages along with railroads liquidating assets during the first half of 2020 contributed to the delays.

“As there’s an increase in pressure for railcars and grain across the world, especially with some of those other geopolitical issues, there’s a limit in inventory for grain cars,” he says.

BNSF and UP, which control most of the grain movement in the U.S., had the largest delays and run east of the Mississippi westward.

“Most of the unfilled orders are in the Upper Plains region—over 43,000 in North Dakota, over 20,000 in Minnesota, nearly 15,000 in Nebraska, and over 15,000 in Kansas,” he says.

Shippers also had added costs as they navigated secondary markets for railcars and Munch says delays continued all long the grain supply chain from the disruptions.

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