Record soy crop tightens gridlock at Brazil's Santos port
By Gustavo Bonato
SANTOS, Brazil Feb 19 (Reuters) - Soy and corn shipments from Santos, Latin America's largest port, face another rough year due to lack of road access to the port, parking lots filled to capacity at registration points, and disregard for truck arrival schedules.
Trucks are already being trapped in line-ups outside the Brazilian port, provoking complaints from residents and grains traders, even though the country's soy crop, which is expected to be record size, is not yet a third harvested.
The Brazilian government is trying to sort out infrastructure bottlenecks and plans to encourage private investment in port improvements, but auctions to award concessions have been delayed.
A visit to Santos on Tuesday suggested the problem may actually be getting worse. Buffer lots, where trucks are required to stop to register or face fines, have been built to reduce the number of trucks sitting on the roads, but there are already long lineups to enter the lots.
"It's a huge waste of time for us," said Wilson Luiz de Almeida Jr., a truck driver, referring to the traffic jams.
Like many others, Almeida confronted the worst part of his 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) trip from the interior in the last 40 kilometers: four hours waiting to enter a buffer lot and four more hours to get to the port terminal.
Such delays hit the entire production chain and affect competitiveness and economic growth in Brazil, the world's largest soybean exporter. The National Cereal Exporters' Association (Anec) estimated losses of $2.5 billion for the sector in 2013 due to factors such as the higher freight costs, which stem in part from congestion at the ports.
One businessman in the Cubatão area of Santos, where there are two holding lots, said drivers are not arriving at their scheduled times. Continuación...