By Ana Mano and Roberto Samora
SAO PAULO, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Shipping schedules for Brazilian ports show soybean exports of some 8.5 million tonnes in February, a potential record for the month, but getting all that to port will be tough for trading firms grappling with harvesting delays and a potential trucker strike.
Some associations representing independent truckers and logistics workers have called for a strike to protest higher diesel prices, starting on Monday, which could hamper soy deliveries to key ports like Santos and Paranaguá.
“February will be very tumultuous, not only in terms of port commitments, but also in terms of available trucks,” said a trader from a large global firm. “Most truckers will still be in Mato Grosso state hauling the late soy.”
Through Jan. 21, Brazil had harvested just 0.7% of its new soybean area, compared with 4.2% the year before.
As a result, exports of the oilseeds from the world’s largest producer and exporter fell by 86% in January from a year ago, according to grain exporter group Anec.
While worrisome for Brazilians, the situation benefited the country’s biggest soybean rival, the United States, which buyers sought in January amid a shortage in Brazil.
“In order to avoid stopping the plants, crushers looked for other origins,” Frederico Humberg, CEO and founder of trading company AgriBrasil, said. He noted that without soybeans to load, ships were backing up at Brazilian ports. “We are going to have a certain logistical chaos.”
Anec director general Sérgio Mendes agreed that loading all the ships next month will be a challenge amid harvesting delays, adding that schedules may not reflect actual export volumes.
Regarding a truckers’ strike, Mendes said it is a concern, but the movement seems to lack the support in had in 2018, when a nationwide trucker stoppage nearly paralyzed Latin American’s largest economy for 11 days.
“Harvesting time is when they get paid the best values for freight,” Mendes said. (Reporting by Ana Mano and Roberto Samora in São Paulo; Additional reporting by Gabriel Araújo; Editing by Brad Haynes and Aurora Ellis)
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