Hurricane Laura came ashore near Cameron, La., with sustained winds of 150 mph at 1 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane, but has since been weakening. Even before the storm came ashore, agribusiness was assessing the storm’s potential impact on industry logistics and exports. Getting those exports down river to seaports is, of course, a staple business of the barge industry.
According to Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, agricultural export regions in the affected area of Hurricane Laura are the Texas Gulf and the Mississippi Gulf. The Texas Gulf includes the ports of Corpus Christi, Galveston, Houston, and Beaumont and accounts for 23% of wheat exports, 1.5% of corn exports, and 0.5% of soybean exports.
The Mississippi Gulf is much more consequential for soybean and corn exports. The export facilities along the lower Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and the Gulf of Mexico account for 60% of soybean exports, 59% of corn exports, and 15% of wheat exports.
From a soybean and corn export perspective, the fact that Hurricane Laura made landfall west of the New Orleans area will result in significantly less disruption to the supply chain and the infrastructure that enables it.
As of last night, the U.S. Coast Guard had announced that the five port regions (Port of Baton Rouge, Port of South Louisiana, Port of New Orleans, Port of Plaquemines, and the Port of St. Bernard) along the Lower Mississippi River remain operational.
For the Texas Gulf, the port regions that will likely be most impacted will be Beaumont and Galveston since they are closer to the Texas/Louisiana border—the area Hurricane Laura will make landfall. Minimal amounts of soybeans are handled at either of those port regions. Wheat is the predominant grain exported from those regions.