Brazilian port bottleneck much worse than normal

by Laura Lloyd
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KANSAS CITY — The  current 60-plus day backlog of soybeans at ports in Brazil is about twice as severe as usual and reflects the record large soybean crop being readied for export in South America, said Paul Meyers, vice-president of commodity analysis, Foresight Commodity Services.

“Thirty days is not unusual,” Mr. Meyers said, “but the record soybean crop has meant much longer delays.”

In its latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected 2012-13 Brazilian soybean production at 83.5 million tonnes, up 26% from 2011-12.

Mr. Meyers said Brazil has projects under way to improve the infrastructure of its ports and roads because the “Brazilian government knows the importance of timely exports,” especially as Brazil plans to increase its production of soybeans, corn and sugar primarily for export in the next 5 to 10 years.

Argentina also is exporting agricultural commodities at an ever-faster pace but any shipping delays have been mostly the result of labor unrest.

“Argentina hasn’t had problems with loading, but it has had some issues with strikes in recent years,” Mr. Meyers said.

The port delays in Brazil are having some impact on the usual scenario where U.S. exports of soybeans slow markedly from the end of March, when the South American harvest is well under way, to October and then revert to the United States after the U.S. fall harvest. The Brazilian soybean harvest was estimated to be more than 75% completed.

Mr. Meyers said stocks of U.S. soybeans are low and the market would obtain a more precise view of supplies of both soybeans and corn from the U.S.D.A.’s Grain Stocks report on March 28.

U.S. agricultural commodities have experienced no delays in shipments at U.S. ports, in part because exports of U.S. corn are down about 55% from last year, even though soybean shipments were up about 21% for the marketing year as of March 21, according to U.S.D.A. data.
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