Brazil soy exports likely to slow after fire near Santos port

Sao Paulo | Reuters –– Brazil’s soy exports will likely slow because a six-day fire at a nearby fuel-storage facility has restricted access to Brazil’s largest port, Santos, a port official and the soy industry association Abiove said on Tuesday.

Authorities have agreed to restrict truck access to some terminals at the port at least through Wednesday while flames are extinguished.

Brazil, the world’s No. 2 soybean producer, is finishing harvesting a record crop and Santos is responsible for moving one third of the country’s exports of the commodity.

Trucks heading to the port through the city of Santos on the Anchieta Highway were prevented from entering at midnight on Monday. Trucks could still proceed to Guaruja, a city on the opposite side of the ship channel.

“(Grain) stocks at the port are no longer supporting shipments on the (Santos) margin,” Daniel Amaral, economist at Brazilian vegetable oil association Abiove, told Reuters. Abiove represents the country’s largest soy traders.

Authorities plan to keep the entrance closed to most trucks until Friday, although they are revising that decision every 12 hours.

Amaral said Abiove members are concerned they will have to pay fines for delayed shipments. If trucks are restricted until Friday, shipments would only return to normal on Sunday, he said.

Port authority planning director Luis Montenegro said that though there will be some impact on grains exports, ships will only be delayed by a day or two, which he said is a period often covered by delivery contracts.

Some 45 per cent of the grain shipments to the restricted area usually come by truck, while 55 per cent arrive by train, he said.

By Tuesday morning two of six fuel tanks at the storage facility were on fire, the facility’s operator, Ultracargo, a unit of Brazilian chemical and fuel-distribution company Grupo Ultra, said in a statement.

Six tanks with a combined capacity of 34,000 cubic metres (214,000 barrels) of ethanol and gasoline were damaged after the fire first broke out on Thursday, Ultracargo said.

Shipping agents Williams reported that the state-run oil company Petrobras has informed companies that its supply barges are now authorized by the Harbor Master to resume bunker fuel deliveries, which are due to restart overnight.

The harbour master had banned ships from restocking bunker-fuel supplies after the fire broke out last week.

The Santos side of the port is also home to sugar terminals operated by Copersucar and Cosan SA’s Rumo Logistica. Officials at both companies said sugar was still arriving at the terminals by train, minimizing the impact on exports.

Reporting for Reuters by Gustavo Bonato and Caroline Stauffer; additional reporting for Reuters by Jeb Blount and Priscila Jordao.

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