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Wheat export crisis looms with US-Mexico Rail Shutdown

By Jean-Paul MacDonald

The abrupt closure of two major rail crossings on the US-Mexico border, El Paso and Eagle Point, has sent shockwaves through the U.S. wheat export community. This move, effective from December 17, has put the longstanding and crucial wheat trade with Mexico in jeopardy. 

Mexico, a top buyer of U.S. wheat, imports an average of 132 million bushels annually, a significant portion of which travels by rail. The closure of these crossings is particularly alarming as it impacts the transit of at least 13 million bushels of wheat, worth more than $114 million annually. 

This disruption is causing considerable anxiety among U.S. wheat exporters. Trains, ready with shipments from the Northern Plains, are currently on hold, creating uncertainties in meeting commitments to Mexican customers. This not only risks current transactions but also threatens the long-established reputation of the U.S. as a reliable wheat supplier. 

In response, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), along with other agricultural organizations, have urgently petitioned U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Their joint letter emphasizes the need to reopen these rail crossings promptly to ensure a steady wheat supply to Mexico. 

While acknowledging the challenges faced at the border, these organizations stress that a supply chain crisis in Mexico can be prevented. The reopening of the crossings is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade. The situation highlights the dependency of international trade on efficient border operations and the need for swift governmental response to safeguard these economic relationships. 

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