More grain terminals found damaged by Ida, exports may stall for weeks

A destroyed car is seen under the debris of a building after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, U.S., August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

By Karl Plume and PJ Huffstutter

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Grain shippers on the U.S. Gulf Coast reported more damage from Hurricane Ida to their terminals on Wednesday as Cargill Inc confirmed damage to a second facility, while power outages across southern Louisiana kept all others shuttered.

Global grains trader Cargill Inc said its Westwego, Louisiana, terminal was damaged by Hurricane Ida, days after confirming more extensive damage at its only other Louisiana grain export facility located in Reserve.

Hurricane Ida, which roared ashore on Sunday, has disrupted grain and soybean shipments from the Gulf Coast, which accounts for about 60% of U.S. exports, at a time when global supplies are tight and demand is strong from China.

Emergency authorities were still surveying the destruction, as numerous barges and boats were sunk in the lower Mississippi River while other debris has obstructed the navigation channel, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The major shipping waterway remains closed to vessel traffic from the Louisiana-Mississippi border to the Gulf of Mexico, shipping sources said.

Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, saw scores of barges and at least five ships grounded during a flyover of the river.

He said the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard anticipate getting the upper Mississippi, from Baton Rouge on northward, “opened up by later today so we can start moving ships.”

The Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to request for comment.

On the lower Mississippi, authorities aim to reopen the section from Nine Mile Point and down in seven days, Strain said.

“There are still transmission lines in the river, and those need to be removed before there can be safe passage,” Strain said. He said low water levels were making it harder to get stuck ships and barges moving again.

Cargill is still assessing the extent of the damage and does not yet know how soon its grain loading and shipping operations at the busiest U.S. grains port may resume, Cargill spokeswoman April Nelson said.

Rival exporter CHS Inc is diverting its export shipments scheduled through the next month through its Pacific Northwest terminal as the hurricane knocked out a transmission line that powers its lone Gulf Coast facility, the company said.

Other shippers, including Bunge Ltd and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co are still assessing damage to their locations, although all are still without power, the companies said.

Power may not be restored for weeks.

(Reporting by Karl Plume and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

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