Fire destroys Brazilian sugar export warehouse

by Ron Sterk
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KANSAS CITY — A fire destroyed three storage units and damaged a fourth in a major sugar export warehouse in the key Brazilian port of Santos, press reports said Oct. 18. News of the fire sent nearby world sugar futures prices to near one-year highs in New York.

The warehouse was storing sugar for Copersucar SA, Brazil’s largest sugar and ethanol producer. It was not known how much sugar was stored in the warehouse, but trade reports indicated it had a capacity of at least 185,000 tonnes, with some capacity estimates as high as 300,000 tonnes.

Even though any loss of sugar in the fire will have minimal impact on the overall global sugar surplus, estimated at 9 million tonnes in 2012-13 and 5 million tonnes or more in 2013-14 (which began Oct. 1), there was concern that damage to the facility may restrict sugar exports out of Santos, which may magnify the short-term impact of the fire.

Brazil is the world’s largest sugar producer and exporter. Sugar production in its major south central region was forecast at more than 34 million tonnes in 2013-14. The current sugar cane harvest season was winding down in Brazil.

World sugar futures in New York closed at an 11-month high of 19.5c a lb on Oct. 18 after soaring to 20.16c a lb during the session. Nearby domestic raw sugar futures surged to a 2013 high of 22.75c a lb but closed well below that level at 22.28c a lb.
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