Port experiences slow business

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 13, 1999

Despite completion of the Natchez Port’s bulk loading facility, low grain prices are keeping the new facility quiet.

&uot;We’re holding tight right now,&uot; said Pat Murphy, director of the Natchez-Adams County Port.

&uot;Work is complete on the conveyer and the bulk loading facility, but grain prices are down,&uot; he said. &uot;So we’re in limbo.&uot;

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Local farmers are currently storing their grain in hopes of better market conditions in the coming months, Murphy said.

&uot;Probably in the second week of December we may be looking to move some of that grain,&uot; he said.

Business at the 40-year-old port has been down this year due to the Asian Crisis.

Plywood shipment are down to zero and shipments from International Paper Mills in Pineville, La and and Natchez have been cut in half.

A 50 percent decrease in kraft paper or liner board from the Pineville Mill, this year, has been one of the biggest hits to the port, Murphy said.

Officials hope the $5 million bulk loading facility will eventually increase business by expanding the port’s off-loading capabilities.

&uot;I think down the road it’s going to definitely impact the agriculture market in our area,&uot;&160;Murphy said recently.

In the meantime, the port is still managing to meet daily expenses with its diminished shipments.

Shipments of cotton seed and aluminum hydrate have helped during the slow period, Murphy said.

To help pay for other expenses – such as improvements not included in the daily budget, the port had to ask the Adams&160;County Board of Supervisors for tax dollars this year.

The Supervisors approved a 2.5 millage increase to generate an additional $400,000 for the port or $38 per every $100,000 building.

For the Natchez Port to request tax dollars is extremely rare and in this way it is different from how most other ports operate.

This port is probably the only port on the Mississippi River that, until now, did not request annual millage, Murphy said.

Because of the economic conditions, other port improvements are currently on hold.