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Ships Line Up Off Brazilian Ports After Record Soybean Harvest

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January 30, 2013

Ship taking on grain, file photo. Image (c) Robert Almeida/gCaptain

(Bloomberg) — A record soybean crop in Brazil, set to be the world’s largest producer and exporter this season, is creating a backlog of ships at the country’s main ports as the harvest begins and corn is still being shipped.

As many as 126 vessels were scheduled to load 6.2 million metric tons of soybeans and corn as of yesterday, according to shipping agency Unimar Agenciamentos Maritimos Ltda. That compares with 72 ships carrying 2.8 million tons a year earlier and 47 vessels with 1.5 million tons in 2011, its data showed. The wait at Santos, the country’s biggest port, may be as many as 35 days, while the wait in Paranagua may be 15 days. Delays may affect the soybean price outlook, Macquarie Group Ltd. said.

“The corn harvest was very big and lasted longer, so we still have a lot of corn to be exported and that coincided with the start of the soybean crop,” Nicolle de Castro, a business analyst at broker and researcher SA Commodities, said by phone from Santos yesterday. “So instead of having one product leave the port for the next one to enter, now we have a lot of corn in the line-up when soy is entering the market.”

Brazil, the world’s third-largest corn exporter, may produce 71 million tons in the 2012-13 season started Sept. 1, the second highest on record, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Soybean output at 82.5 million tons would be an all-time high, USDA data showed.

Markets Rally

Soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade, the global benchmark, have climbed in the past three weeks as rain in parts of Brazil threatened to delay the harvest while the USDA said Jan. 11 that U.S. inventories dropped to a nine-year low on Dec. 1. Both soybeans and corn rose to records last year as drought cut U.S. yields and dry weather in the past season hurt South American crops, while oilseed demand increased from China, the world’s biggest consumer.

As of Jan. 17, U.S. exporters had committed to ship about 33 million tons of soybeans since the marketing year began in September, about 90 percent of the USDA’s forecast for total shipments this year at 36.6 million tons, government data show. Export commitments are 27 percent higher from a year earlier.

Soybean importers usually begin shifting toward South American supplies in February, when Brazil’s harvest starts to accelerate, said Chris Gadd, an analyst at Macquarie in London. The South American country may ship about 38.4 million tons this marketing year, according to the USDA, while Gadd estimates exports at about 37 million tons.

Soybean Harvest

From February to August, the main shipping period, Brazil’s soybean exports may need to reach 33 million to 35 million tons, Gadd said. That compares with 29 million tons in the same period a year earlier and about 25 million tons in the previous three seasons, he said. Brazil’s soybean harvest was 2 percent complete, compared with last year’s pace of 3 percent, crop researcher AgRural said on Jan. 28.

“Delays to the harvest and delays because of infrastructure are big issues for soybean export potential” in Brazil, Gadd said. “These are the most material risks to the soybean-price outlook in the second half of the season.”

The backlog of vessels is a concern for sugar traders as some terminals used to load sugar switch to grain and oilseeds at this time of year, according to Michael McDougall, head of the Brazil desk at Newedge Group in New York. More time spent loading the extra grain supplies may delay sugar shipments later. Brazil is the world’s biggest sugar producer.

Grains Switch

The switching to grains of some terminals at Paranagua may limit the amount of sugar to be delivered when the March futures contract expires at the end of next month on ICE Futures U.S. in New York, according to Naim Beydoun, a broker at Swiss Sugar Brokers in Rolle, Switzerland.

Still, “I don’t think the grains situation will affect sugar as the switch of terminals from sugar to grains and oilseeds is no different from what happened in the last two years,” SA Commodities’ de Castro said.

Raw sugar for March delivery climbed 1.6 percent to 18.67 cents a pound by 6:33 a.m. on ICE. Soybeans for March delivery climbed 1.2 percent to $14.685 a bushel in Chicago.

– Isis Almeida and Whitney McFerron, Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

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