Landslide, prolonged drought affecting Argentina’s port operations, corn and soy shipments

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Cargo ship in Rosario, Argentina  © GettyImages/claudiio Doenitz
Cargo ship in Rosario, Argentina © GettyImages/claudiio Doenitz

Related tags Cargill Bunge Parana River Soybean meal

Grains and oilseeds transport flow has improved on Argentina's Parana River following a slowdown caused by debris from a landslide slowed cargo ships over the weekend, the local ports chamber told Reuters yesterday.

Lower-than-normal water levels continue to put downward pressure on traffic rates, however.

There has been heightened concern that the collapse of a section of riverbank near the Rosario grain ports hub over the weekend would delay corn and soybean shipments. Dredgers set to work clearing the debris.

About 80% of Argentina's agricultural and agro-industrial exports are shipped from the Rosario region.

While the debris has now been cleared, Guillermo Wade, manager of the Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities, told Reuters that low water levels on the Parana were causing difficulties for transportation.

A drought in northern Argentina and central Brazil has made the river shallower than normal for the month of May.

This period is critical for corn and soy harvesting in Argentina, which is the third leading soybean exporter globally and the world’s biggest exporter of soybean meal.

Wade has said that the current level of the Parana forced traders such as Cargill and Bunge, to load 10,000 fewer tons of merchandise in large-scale Panamax ships that would typically exit the port with between 50,000 and 55,000 tons in their holds.

COVID-19 impacts

Earlier this month, we reported on how soy exports from Argentina had been hit by COVID-19 related events, as well as logistics and tax bottlenecks.

The country's soybean crushing sector has experienced challenges in procuring raw soybeans due to coronavirus related restrictions, with truck deliveries disrupted by the pandemic, according to the latest analysis from S&P Global Platts.

The number of trucks loaded with beans entering Argentinian ports was 60% to 75% lower than the same period a year ago, said Platts, citing commodities transporting firm, Agroentregas.

Quarantine steps at Argentinian crushing plants and ports could also support Brazilian soybean meal exports, said the analysts.

The USDA in a FAS report​ last month, said that at least some processing capacity could be temporarily offline for disinfection in the coming months, as the number of COVID-19 cases increase in Argentina.

On top of production and export constraints, the new Argentinian government has resorted to taxing the country's soybean sector as a fiscal measure. Taxes on soybean and soy products were raised 9 percentage points to 33% in March, limiting farmers' soy sales intentions.

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