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Waterways Are Drying Up in Key South American Crop-Shipping Hubs

Increasingly shallow rivers in Argentina and Paraguay are making it harder to move soybeans and grains to market.

The Port of Rosario, Argentina, on April 24. The drought in South America is drying up its waterways, threatening the ability to haul crops.

The Port of Rosario, Argentina, on April 24. The drought in South America is drying up its waterways, threatening the ability to haul crops.

Photographer: Sebastian Lopez Brach/Bloomberg

The South American drought that’s helping push corn and soybean prices to multiyear highs isn’t just threatening crops, but also the ability to haul them on waterways that are drying up.

On the increasingly shallow rivers that flow through top producers Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, barges are carrying less than their usual load. The situation is so desperate in Paraguay that the country is asking neighboring Brazil to release water from the giant Itaipu hydroelectric dam, after vessels have run aground and logjams are forming in river ports because barges can’t move. In a key Argentine leg of the 4,900-kilometer (3,000-mile) Parana River, uncertainty over dredging work could make it even harder for farmers to ship their harvests.