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September 30, 2013

Ports in Southern Brazil Improve Process of Unloading Fertilizers

Brazil imports approximately 70% of the fertilizer needed to produce the increasing grain production in the country and the primary entry point for these fertilizers are the Ports of Paranagua and Antonina in southern Brazil. After suffering through extensive delays in unloading vessels last year, the ports have made improvements in getting fertilizer into the country at the six berths dedicated for fertilizer arrivals at the two ports.

The Ports of Paranagua and neighboring Antonina imported 6.3 million tons of fertilizers during the month of August, which was 12% more than the 5.7 million tons imported in August of 2012. Last year at this time there were 53 vessels waiting to unload at the two ports and that has dropped to only 11 vessels this year. From January through August, 319 vessels docked at the two ports to unload fertilizers. During the same period last year, 269 vessels unloaded fertilizer at the two ports.

The major gain in efficiency and productivity at the ports is primarily the result of switching from a manual system to an electronic system of receiving the incoming shipments of fertilizers.

Each vessel that arrives at the port has fertilizers destined for different locations in Brazil and under the cumbersome and slow manual system, the data concerning each truck, its contents, and its destination had to be entered manually into the system before the truck could be weighed and sent on its way. The new electronic system allows data concerning each truck and its contents to be transmitted electronically before the truck is weighed resulting in an approximate 10% gain in efficiency. The new system also reduces the number of potential errors as well.

One of the problems last year that resulted in long lines of vessels waiting to unload was an undeclared "work slowdown" conducted by federal inspectors at the port who were upset by the government's proposal to privatize many of the functions at the ports. That proposal eventually passed the Brazilian Congress and is now in the process of being implemented. With that issue resolved inspectors have been working at their normal pace, at least for the time being.

The Brazilian government has set the goal of being self-sufficient in fertilizer production by the year 2020, but progress toward that goal has been slow. The government realizes that if Brazil wants to be one of the principal suppliers of food in the world, it can't be beholding to the uncertainly and fluctuations of the international fertilizer markets. With so many demands for infrastructure improvements in Brazil, it remains to be seen if they will be able to achieve that goal in a little more than six years.