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U.S. soy exports hit 6-month high as Gulf loadings rise after Ida; lag year ago pace

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By Karl Plume

Sept 27 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean exports jumped to a six-month peak last week while corn shipments were the highest in a month as Louisiana Gulf Coast terminals steadily ramped up operations disrupted by Hurricane Ida nearly a month ago, preliminary data showed on Monday.

The export pace, however, was still well below normal for this time of year as several terminals remain shuttered or running at reduced capacity after the storm flooded and damaged some facilities and wrecked the region's power grid.

Ida crippled overseas grain shipments weeks before the start of the Midwest harvest and the busiest period for U.S. crop exports, sending export prices soaring and stoking global worries about food inflation.

Weekly USDA grain inspections data, an early indicator of shipments abroad, showed 11 export vessels were loaded with corn, soybeans, wheat or sorghum at facilities dotted along the lower Mississippi River in the week ended Sept. 23.

That was up from just seven vessels loaded a week earlier but well below the same week a year ago, when 24 vessels were loaded for export at the busiest U.S. grains hub, the data showed.

Weekly corn inspections at all U.S. ports totaled 517,539 tonnes last week, down 37% from the same week a year earlier, while soybean inspections were down 66% at 440,742 tonnes.

Almost a month into the 2021/22 marketing year that began Sept. 1, corn inspections are at less than half of last year's pace, and soybean inspections are at just a fifth of the year-ago rate, according to USDA data.

About 11 bulk vessels were docked and loading at Louisiana Gulf Coast elevators on Monday and nearly 60 more were lined up along the Mississippi River and waiting to load, an industry vessel lineup report and Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed.

Most of the nearly dozen large grain terminals owned by Archer-Daniels-Midland Co, Bunge Ltd, Louis Dreyfus Co and others escaped the storm with minor damage. One of two terminals owned by Cargill Inc sustained the worst damage. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)