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Floods to sow chaos for Brazil’s South logistics

  • : Fertilizers
  • 24/05/09

Unprecedented floods in Brazil's southern Rio Grande do Sul state are expected to create even more chaotic logistics situation in the country and could cut fertilizer usage for 2024-25 soybean crop in the state.

Heavy rainfall has hit the state since 29 April, culminating in the worst floods ever registered in Rio Grande do Sul. The floods have reached the central part of the state, closing the ports of Pelotas and Porto Alegre, which both handle agricultural commodities, including grains, oilseeds and fertilizers. The high waters are expected to move south, reaching Rio Grande port.

The three Rio Grande do Sul ports handled about 44.8mn metric tonnes (t) in 2023, with the larger Rio Grande port accounting for at least 42.6mn t, according to port data.

The state's geographic layout and a particularly narrow channel for floodwaters to reach the sea suggests the worst is yet to come in the southern part of the state. Water levels are about to increase in the Lagoa dos Patos, a lagoon that receives water from many rivers and flows to the Atlantic Ocean.

But operations are running normally in the Rio Grande port as of 9 May. The national association of cereal exporters Anec project that 343,250 t of soybeans and 131,778 t of soymeal will be shipped in the week ended 11 May, according to port schedule data. Shipments between 28 April and 4 May — which account for the days where rainfall reached its peak and the state began to flood — totaled 183,559t and 133,424t for soybean and soymeal, respectively.

Lineup data from maritime agency Williams predicts that soybean exports may total 838,600t, nearly doubling the volumes from the forecast a week ago. The estimated average waiting time for shipping rose to just three days from the two days projected on 29 April. The Rio Grande port was the fifth largest soybean exporter in 2023, with 3.8mn t shipped last year, according to the National Waterway Transportation Agency (Antaq).

Waiting time for discharge fertilizers is at around one day, unchanged from the previous week. Rio Grande port was third in terms of fertilizer import volumes in the first quarter 2024, according to lineup data from maritime agency Unimar. Paranagua, in Parana state, received 2mn t of fertilizers, followed by Santos port and Rio Grande, with 1.9mn t and 990,640t, respectively.

Lineup data for May and June suggest that Rio Grande is about to receive 540,900t and 66,375t of fertilizers, respectively. Vessels lined-up for Rio Grande may be diverted to other ports, specially for Sao Francisco do Sul, in Santa Catarina state, and Paranagua according to market participants.

Even if fertilizer volumes would be discharged as initially planned, the flow to agriculture producing areas would be compromised. The main access to the port, the BR-116 roadway, is already partially blocked, hampering truck flows in the state.

Drivers have already been searching for short-stretches to move goods, as long-stretches force them to look for longer alternatives, considering there are around 88 partial and full road blockages in the state as of 9 May.

Logistics company Rumo also partially interrupted operations in Rio Grande do Sul state on 6 May. The company has a grain terminal in Rio Grande port and a rail network of around 7,220km in Brazil's South region, which includes Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Parana states.

Fertilizer companies that operate in Rio Grande do Sul are reportedly trying to move their product to warehouses away from the rivers. Considering the agricultural production, volumes that had already been sowed and were in silos are now soaked. With more damage expected to be measured farmers in Rio Grande do Sul may be discouraged from investing in technology and fertilizers for the upcoming 2024-25 soybean crop.

More rain forecast for the weekend

Brazil's national meteorological institute Inmet expects rainfall to intensify once again in Rio Grande do Sul starting this Friday between the state's center-north and west portions.

Rain levels are expected to subside by 12 May, but may surpass 100mm before then.

The coastal areas in the north regions and south of Santa Catarina state are also expected to be affected, according to Inmet.

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