Rita Misses Most Gulf Ports

Most Gulf ports escaped significant damage from Hurricane Rita, which means that further disruptions to U.S. grain exports should be limited.

Preliminary projections were that most, if not all, would be able to resume full operations shortly after personnel are allowed to return to the region following the mandatory evacuation order issued for several areas prior to Rita’s approach, The National Grain and Feed Association said on Saturday.

The Port of Houston Authority, which was closed due to Hurricane Rita, was reopened for employees on Monday, but said it would not receive commercial vessels or barges until the U.S. Coast Guard reopened the Houston Ship Channel.

The Port Authority on Sunday said the commercial trucks would be able to transport cargo in or out of the facilities starting on Tuesday.

Reports indicate that the 10 export grain elevators in the New Orleans region received heavy rains, but sustained no physical or structural damage, the NGFA said.

Crops and livestock in the Gulf region also fared better than expected as Rita and its heavy rains moved quickly north as a tropical depression instead of stalling over the South for days and dumping in excess of 25 in. of rain as the U.S. National Hurricane Center had predicted.

Rita did bring rainfall amounts ranging from 1-6 in. to the Mississippi Delta region, which could harm the quality of unharvested cotton there. But in Louisiana, the heaviest rains fell away from the main cotton growing areas.

The storm’s fast move north brought harvest delaying rains to southern parts of the Corn Belt on Sunday.

Rita’s impact on energy prices should also be limited as the petrochemical industry along the Gulf Coast received only a glancing blow, with just one major plant suffering significant damage.

The 255,000-barrel-per-day Valero Energy Corp. plant in Port Arthur appeared to be the most heavily damaged. The company said on Saturday said it could take two weeks to a month to restart that plant.

Editors note: Richard Brock, The Corn and Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.