Brazil’s grain ports seen facing record volumes

Sao Paulo | Reuters — Brazil’s grain ports will endeavour to move the last of a record soybean crop just as a huge corn harvest starts competing for terminal space, testing the country’s export capacity, an analyst at local consultancy Agroconsult said.

Brazil is exporting much of a record 96 million-tonne soybean crop and, starting in August, will begin shipping a second corn crop of 51.4 million tonnes, also a record. The country is the world’s No. 2 exporter of both commodities.

“The logistics system is running at its limit, especially in August. Nothing can go wrong,” Marcos Rubin, senior analyst at Agroconsult, said in an interview Thursday.

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The firm uses its own methodology to estimate grain shipments, based on ship lineup data, diverging from official customs numbers.

According to Agroconsult, from January through May Brazil exported 27 million tonnes of soybeans and 3.1 million tonnes of corn, a combined 30.1 million tonnes. According to trade secretariat Secex, Brazil’s shipments reached 27.6 million tonnes in the first five months of the year.

Between June and December, Agroconsult forecasts exports of 22 million tonnes of soybeans and 24 million tonnes of corn, totaling 46 million tonnes. The highest volume previously exported during that period was in 2013, 39 million tonnes.

June, July and August will be the busiest months for oilseed exports, as 20-21 million tonnes are shipped, leaving only small amounts for the September-December period, when the U.S. floods the market with its newly harvested crop.

“Starting in August, there will be a considerable amount of corn being shipped. That is the critical month,” Rubin said.

Rains in southern ports such as Paranagua, which may be more frequent this year due to the El Nino climate phenomenon, could temporarily halt loadings, jeopardizing shipping schedules.

Providing some relief, recent shipping performance data shows Brazil added 800,000 tonnes/month of capacity in the past two years, mainly at terminals on the northern coast.

Shipping capacity at Itaqui port, in Sao Luis, where a consortium of Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Glencore, CHS and other companies has started to operate a new terminal, has increased by 370,000 tonnes per month.

Barcarena, where Bunge built a new terminal last year, is loading 290,000 more tonnes per month.

“The new capacity at northern ports began showing up in lineup data in April. Their performance may increase in June and July. New northern terminals will definitely be in demand,” Rubin said.

Reporting for Reuters by Gustavo Bonato in Sao Paulo.

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