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Brazil planning giant Amazon soybean port

rio de janeiro / reuters / Brazilian port authorities are planning a new grains port in the Amazon region, a terminal designed to become the country’s largest soybean export centre and to slash transportation costs for farmers, the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported Feb. 18.

The proposed 18-million-tonne-a-year Port of Outeiro would be built near Belem, the largest city in Brazil’s Amazon region. It is designed to surpass the 16.8-million-tonnes grains capacity of the Port of Santos, and the 14.8-million-tonnes capacity of the Port of Paranagua, the paper said.

Grains loading at Santos was disrupted for five days this week after a ship knocked a loading machine off the dock and into the water.

The new Amazon port proposal is scheduled to be sent to Brazil’s water transportation regulator for approval in the coming days, Folha said.

An auction to sell rights to build and operate the port’s 660-million-real ($382-million) first phase could be held as early as late 2012, the paper reported. It could begin operation in 2014, Folha said.

The port would provide a new way for farmers in Brazil’s states of Mato Grosso, Goias, Para, Tocantins, Maranhao, and other parts of the nation’s Cerrado, Northeast and Amazon regions to ship their grain to market, the paper reported.

It costs Brazilian farmers about $85 a tonne to transport grains to market compared with $20 a tonne in the United States and Argentina, Folha said.

Despite the transportation cost disadvantage, Brazil is the world’s second-largest soybean exporter and is expected to overtake the United States this year according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Brazil is now harvesting a soy crop of 70 million tonnes and about 60 million tonnes of corn.

The new port would allow farmers to use efficient barge trains to move their grain to port over Amazon rivers rather than smaller individual trucks running on overcrowded and poorly maintained highways. Much of Brazil’s crop must travel the distance from New York to New Orleans by two-lane road to get loaded on a ship at Santos or Paranagua.

A port in the north of the country would allow loading closer to markets in Europe and the Middle East. It would also be closer to the Panama Canal, cutting travel times to China, Brazil’s largest soybean market.

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