Port of Baltimore plays key role in grain, ag equipment trade

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In the early hours of Tuesday, March 26th, the cargo vessel MV Dali collided with a support post of the Francis Scott Key Bridge at Baltimore, Maryland, causing the bridge to collapse.

Reports are that the Singapore-flagged ship experienced a power loss and inability to steer the ship before the collision.

While the rescue and recovery effort will take some time, the clean up and repair of the Patapsco River and the shipping corridor will take much longer, putting strain on the supply lines that flow through the Port of Baltimore.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, says that the port isn’t as critical to grain imports and exports as the Mississippi River and the New Orleans hub, but it is a key port of agriculture equipment, fertilizer, and many other ag-related products.

Steenhoek talks with RealAgriculture’s Lyndsey Smith. Story continues after the interview.

Still, plenty of grain does move through the port, as Steenhoek says the United States Department of Agriculture’s stats from 2020 show the Port of Baltimore exported 142,152 metric tons of soybeans via container. There are no reported soybean exports via bulk vessel.  The port imported 172,228 metric tons of soybeans via container and 34,185 metric tons of soybeans via bulk vessels.  In contrast, the Mississippi Gulf region – the leading export region for soybeans – accounted for 35.4 million metric tons of soybean exports by bulk.

The top five agricultural products handled (import and export combined) at the Port of Baltimore are: sugar, soybeans, grain (including corn and wheat), coffee, and grocery items.

The Port of Baltimore is incredibly important to the automotive sector, as a huge volume of vehicle trade runs through the port. The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates the bridge carries about 4,900 trucks per day that haul goods worth an annual average of $28 billion. The ATA says re-routing these goods will come at a direct cost to shippers and consumers.

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