From agriculture to maritime exports: The role of weather in the grain supply chain


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Grain is one of the most important yet underrated commodities in the world. This series takes a closer look at key grain ports around the world and the role that weather plays throughout the supply chain. We’ll also look at how weather affects port operations and even other ship operators and commodity supply chains.

Here we focus on the USA where grain is predominantly shipped from New Orleans, Houston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Seattle, and Portland. The leading U.S. exports are grains/feeds, soybeans, livestock products, and horticultural products (USDA).

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and analysis by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), during the first 10 months of the marketing year (September 2017 to June 2018), the United States exported 98.3 million metric tons (38.7 billion bushels) of grain in all forms, up 2 percent year-over-year from last year’s record-setting pace.

 

Precipitation forecasts are key

Here we see a 7-day precipitation forecast from Spire Weather for regions surrounding the main US ports exporting grains. Significant precipitation at grain ports has the potential to cause measurable port slowdowns with ripple effects throughout the maritime and agriculture supply chains.

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Having accurate weather forecast information is critical to ensure that grain shipment deadlines are met, but the impact of port slowdowns on global supply chains extends even further. Vessel charter agreements specify an allotted time for loading and unloading and if rain isn’t taken into account during negotiations, then it can quickly affect the charterer’s bottom line. Even vessels carrying other commodities that are stuck at anchorage while berthed cargo ships wait to discharge or load grain can mean the difference between a successful voyage and a delayed one.

 

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