May 21, 2024

Indiana farmers visit Panama

Shipping delays in Panama Canal

Cargo vessels pass through the Panama Canal.

PANAMA CITY — Leaders from the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Soybean Alliance traveled to Panama to see how checkoff dollars are being used to boost markets in Central America.

They visited the Panama Canal, where drought has caused delays in shipping. Fewer ships are allowed through the canal, resulting in longer wait times for vessels to pass through.

The freshwater lake that services the locks in the canal is 81 feet above sea level — six feet lower than normal — due to drought.

In normal conditions, about 40 vessels would pass through the canal each day. Now, just over 20 vessels can pass through. That number will go down to 18 in February.

“It doesn’t necessarily affect our shipments to Panama because they can unload on either side, but it does affect ships we’d like to send through there,” said Tim Gauck, president of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “With it being low, they can’t ship as quickly.”

Some exports from America to Asia are being diverted through the Suez Canal, which is a longer and more expensive route, he said.

“Moving products through exports is very important,” said Keevin Lemenager, secretary of the ISA board. “We don’t have the capacity to use all that we produce. Exports are important for prices.”

The ISA and ICMC work with organizations like the U.S. Meat Export Federation to accelerate demand for corn and soybeans in all forms.

During the trip, they learned how checkoff dollars promote U.S. grain markets. They visited grocery stores and meat markets to see how American goods are marketed.

“It’s important for us to find new uses and markets for it,” Gauck said. “That’s why we’re here.

“Half of what is imported is for animal feed, half is for human consumption. It’s easy to import to Panama because it’s just down the Mississippi and across the Caribbean.”

Tariffs on U.S. imports are a concern to grain farmers. It’s an issue they hope will be addressed in 2026, Gauck said.

Other highlights of the trip include:

• The Soy Transportation Coalition annual board meeting.

• Talks with the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council about promoting U.S. turkey and duck in Mexico, as well as U.S. poultry and egg exports to Colombia. They learned about programs that provide duck seminars, training for foodservice and a turkey campaign geared toward consumers.

• Updates from the U.S. Soybean Export Council. One project highlighted was the Soybean Oil Masters program, which promotes the use of soybean oil through educational sessions, events, trade missions and certification testing.

• Updates from the U.S. Grains Council about Indiana-funded programs in Latin America, including ones that promote ethanol.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor