The prospect of a huge Brazilian soybean harvest ahead,
which may earn the country the title of the world's top producer, is heightening
concerns over shortfalls in its transport and storage facilities.
Analysis group Celeres this week became the latest commentator
to forecast a huge rise in Brazil's next soybean crop, set for harvest early in
2013, pegging it at 78.1m tonnes.
The jump of 17.8%, year on year, reflects in part expectations
of improved yields following damage from the El Nino weather pattern to the
last harvest, but also an estimate that sowings will rise 8% to 27.14m hectares
as farmers seek to exploit elevated prices.
Other analysts have pegged the harvest even higher, with
Agroconsult forecasting an 83.1m-tonne crop, potentially enough to top the
drought-hit US crop.
However, the prospect of huge crop volumes to shift to port
has raised fears for infrastructure already struggling to cope with an elevated
safrinha, or winter, corn crop, and exploit a gap in world supplies created by
disappointing US output.
Crop scout Michael Cordonnier, at Soybean and Corn Advisor,
warning of "chronic congestion" already at Brazil's ports, said that the "entire
logistical situation is expected to get worse in 2013".
Flagging the threat of "logistical gridlock", Dr Cordonnier
said that areas far from port looked set to be particularly badly hit,
including Mato Grosso, where farmers are expected to double soybean sowings to 1m
hectares, besides increasing plantings of safrinha corn seeded as a follow-on crop.
"If the yield of both crops turns out to be very good, there
will be significant problems in storing and transporting both of those crops in
According to Macquarie, it costs $150 a tonne to transport
soybeans to port from Mato Grosso, the top producing state, compared with $30-40
a tonne from farms in the US Midwest.
Dumped on the ground
The warnings come amid a campaign by Abiove, the Brazilian
vegetable oil association, to persuade authorities to "resume" investment in
rail and road projects, such as a R$6.4bn east-west rail link to Mato Grosso put
on ice following allegations of corruption.
Many commentators believe that rural infrastructure investment
is taking second place to boosting networks needed for the 2014 World Cup and
2016 Olympic Games.
Terming Brazil's transport network "precarious", Abiove said
that in Mato Grosso, the completion of warehouses meant that "storage of safrinha
corn in the open is already happening", threatening crop quality.