Brazil’s northern ports take bigger share of soybean exports

25 Jan 2018 | Reese Ewing

Brazil’s main northern export terminals nearly doubled their shipments of the country’s record soybean harvest in 2017, carving out a larger share of the market from the traditional southern ports like Santos and Paranagua.

Data released by Brazil’s Trade Ministry showed that ADM’s and Glencore’s Barcarena soybean export terminal moved a record 4.46 million mt in 2017, doubling the 2.18 million mt shipped in 2016 through the fluvial terminal in Para state.

The grain terminal in Sao Luis, in Maranhao state, developed by French commodities trader Louis Dreyfus and local soybean giant Amaggi, also nearly doubled shipments of soybeans in 2017 to 6.13 million mt from 3.85 million mt the year before, the ministry showed.

The growing prominence of Brazil’s so-called northern arc of soybean ports has been fueled by the expansion of production from Brazil’s upper center-west and northeastern frontier grain belt.

That includes the country’s top soy and corn producer Mato Grosso and the fast-growing, multistate, soy-producing region known as Matopiba, which includes the states of Maranhao, Tocantins, Piaui and Bahia.

The shorter distances from farm to port are roughly 1,000 km using the northern arc, versus 2,000 km roughly to reach the main grain ports in the south and southeast of the country, namely Santos and Paranagua.

This has trimmed freight costs for producers and made Brazil’s soybean export more robust in the face of terminal outages, isolated weather or strikes in the main southern ports.

A study produced this week by Mato Grosso farm economics institute Imea said a record 43% of the state’s record 18 million mt of soybean exports moved through the northern ports in 2017.

The port of Salvador in the northeastern state of Bahia is also moving greater volumes of soybeans from its western grain belt in the state and from the neighboring center-west state of Goias.

Salvador moved 3.17 million mt of soybeans last year, up from 1.41 million mt in 2016, ministry data showed.

Soybean shipments through Cargill’s terminal in Santarem on the lower Amazon River grew at a less impressive rate, reaching 1.87 million mt last year from nearly 1.7 million mt in 2016.

Santos continued to lead the pack, with shipments of 16.59 million mt last year, up from 14.47 million mt in 2016, while Rio Grande Port in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul surprisingly surpassed Paranagua in Parana state as the country’s second largest exporter of soybeans.

The port moved 12.55 million mt last year to Paranagua’s 11.34 million mt of soybeans.

Overall Brazil shipped 68.15 million mt of soybeans last year on the heels of a record 114.1 million mt harvest, data from the Agriculture and Trade Ministries showed.