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Nation & World

Brazil's soybean lead gets boost from new routes

Its northern ports can export large volumes

Bloomberg

Brazil is boosting its lead over the United States in soybean exports. Above, combines harvest soybeans near Tangara da Serra, Brazil.
Bloomberg Brazil is boosting its lead over the United States in soybean exports. Above, combines harvest soybeans near Tangara da Serra, Brazil.

Brazil, the biggest soybean exporter, is strengthening its lead against the United States after trading giants spent billions of dollars on building new terminals and developing routes to ports in the north through the Amazon region.

“Brazil’s northern ports are allowing the country to export big volumes of grain without the historical loading delays or vessel queues,” said Sergio Mendes, general director at the grain-export group Anec.

“Traders are shipping through the north the same soybean volumes they usually export from Santos, Latin America’s largest port,” in the south, he said. “This is a huge conquest.”

Bunge Ltd. kicked off the expansion in 2014 by using vessels on an Amazon waterway to move soybeans 621 miles to Barcarena port in Para state from Mato Grosso, the top producing state.

Companies including Cargill, which has facilities in Cedar Rapids, and Louis Dreyfus made investments to construct terminals and barge fleets.

Railway operations have improved, and road administration shifted to private companies from the government, aiding logistics, said Daniel Furlan, economics manager at Abiove in Sao Paulo.

Corn shipments this year may climb 58 percent, to 38 million metric tons, and soybean exports may be 70.5 million, topping a previous estimate by 5.2 percent, partly because of transportation and port expansions, Andre Pessoa, head of Agroconsult, has forecast.

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In the first half, a combined 19 million of corn and soybean products moved from the north, and the 2019 volume may reach 35 million, according to farm group Aprosoja.

From January through June 2019, soybean shipments from southern ports rose 16 percent from the same period in 2014, while exports from northern ports more than tripled, according to government data compiled by the industry group Abiove. In the six months ended June, the north handled 32 percent of total shipments, more than doubling from 2014.

Brazil has benefited from infrastructure investments at a time when U.S. farmers have been rattled by the Trump administration’s trade war with China, the top soybean importer. The Asian country has mostly shunned U.S. supplies, and shipments notably have slumped from ports in the Pacific Northwest, which has significant excess capacity for crops.

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