Grain and oilseed exports from Brazil, the largest soybean shipper, will probably escape disruption from a fire at the country’s biggest port, according to SA Commodities, a shipping agent and broker in Santos.
Some warehouses at Santos and Paranagua ports that usually handle sugar switch to exporting corn and soybeans starting in January, when the cane crop is between harvests. Most of the space usually dedicated to grains and oilseeds at these depots has already been contracted to handle those commodities, said Nicolle de Castro, a business analyst at SA Commodities.
The blaze at Santos damaged six sugar warehouses owned by Copersucar SA, Brazil’s biggest sweetener and ethanol-exporting company, and destroyed 180,000 metric tons of sugar on Oct. 18. Brazil is harvesting a record soybean crop and third-biggest in corn, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
“Other terminals may take some of Copersucar’s sugar during the intercrop, but it’s not like they can shy away from grains and oilseeds shipments,” de Castro said by phone from Santos last week. “A lot of the space that will be used for commodities other than sugar has already been contracted.”
Sugar terminals that handled grains this year are Soceppar in Paranagua and Rumo and one owned by Noble Corp., both in Santos, according to SA Commodities. Copersucar’s warehouses in Santos had capacity to hold 300,000 tons of sugar and shipments from that terminal accounted for 25 percent of Santos sweetener exports, estimates Codesp, the state-controlled port operator. Santos is the country’s biggest port followed by Paranagua.
Copersucar’s sugar cargoes that were on the road heading to Santos were diverted after the fire to Rumo, a neighboring terminal owned by Cosan SA Industria & Comercio, Sao Paulo-based Cosan said on Oct. 18. An average of 10 vessels were loaded with sugar every month at Copersucar’s facilities, de Castro said. A sugar ship usually carries about 50,000 tons.
While Rumo may take as much as 150,000 tons of Copersucar’s sugar, it only loaded one soybean vessel earlier this year with 61,000 tons, she said. The terminal owned by Noble handled 17 grain and oilseeds vessels from January to May, loading 857,802 tons, according to SA Commodities. Soceppar handled 12 ships and loaded 513,000 tons of grains and oilseeds from March to May, data from the company showed.
The grain and oilseed exports from the three sugar terminals were 2.2 percent of Brazil’s total shipments of corn and soybeans in 2012-13, USDA and SA Commodities data show. Brazil will harvest 88 million tons of soybeans in 2013-14 which started there this month, 7.3 percent more than last year, USDA estimates. The corn crop begun in March will be 72 million tons, 11 percent smaller than last year, the data show.
In September, Brazil exported 3.4 million tons of corn, up from 3.1 million tons a year earlier, according to government data compiled by Bloomberg. Soybean shipments rose to 3.5 million tons from 1.68 million tons, the data show.
Shipments of corn, soybeans and soybean meal from Brazil were about 10 million tons a month at the peak this year, said Chris Gadd, an analyst in London at Macquarie Group Ltd., Australia’s biggest investment bank.
“Brazil’s export program won’t hit peak for soybeans, soymeal and corn until April of next year, so there’s a good long while still,” Gadd said. “As they are only exporting corn at the moment, there is some spare port capacity at the present.”
Sugar prices dropped 6.1 percent this year in New York while corn fell 38 percent and soybeans declined 9.4 percent in Chicago.