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February 18, 2021

Congestion at Port of Miritituba not Expected to Impact Operations

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Since last week, there have been thousands of grain trucks in a traffic jam along Highway BR-230 waiting to enter the Port of Miritituba on the Tapajos River in northern Brazil. While this congestion is a big problem for the truckers, it is not expected to impact the functioning of the port.

The Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (Abiove) reported in an interview with Noticias Agricolas that operations at the port are functioning normally with soybeans being loaded onto barges destined for export facilities along the Amazon River.

Trucks carrying soybeans from Mato Grosso head north along Highway BR-163 and then enter Highway BR-230 for the last 30 kilometers to the port. Highway BR-230, which is also known as the Trans-Amazon Highway, is paved except for the last seven kilometers which is unpaved and under the authority of the local mayor. The unpaved section is passable, that is not the cause for the long line of trucks. The problem stems from the fact that the capacity of the staging areas in the port is insufficient to handle the volume of truck traffic.

The port can unload approximately 500 trucks per day, but at times, there are an estimated 10,000 trucks waiting to enter the staging areas.

The current congestion is being caused, in part, by the delayed start to the soybean harvest in Mato Grosso. Normally, the soybean harvest in Mato Grosso starts in early January and gradually builds to a peak in mid-February. Dry weather back in September and October delayed the soybean planting resulting in a very concentrated planting window. That in turn, is resulting in a very concentrated harvest window as well and a sudden surge of grain trucks heading north to the port.

Irronically, problems along Highway BR-163 over the last few years helped to more evenly control the number of trucks heading to the port. Impassable conditions on BR-163 for the last few years held down the number of trucks until the weather turned dryer during March and April. With the completion of the paving of BR-163, now trucks can head north immediately after the harvest starts, resulting in the current congestion.

Eventually a railroad is scheduled to be built from northern Mato Grosso to the Port of Miritituba. Construction bids are expected to be approved sometime in 2021 with the railroad becoming operational within 5-6 years. In the meantime, port officials will consider ways to more evenly control the flux of trucks headed to the port.

The Port of Paranagua in southern Brazil had a similar problem years ago with lines of trucks carrying soybeans as long as 100 kilometers waiting to enter the port. They solved the problem by instituting a system where trucks were only allowed to enter the port if they had been notified by an automatic computer system. With the proliferation of smart phones, it would now probably be even easier to institute a similar system.