Brazilian mills tinker with sugar to make it less flammable

martes 21 de octubre de 2014 12:45 GYT

By Reese Ewing

SAO PAULO Oct 21 (Reuters) - Brazilian cane mills are adjusting the way they produce and store sugar to make it less flammable, industry executives said, after four major warehouse fires over the past year did millions of dollars of damage at the world's largest exporter.

A severe drought that has damaged this year's cane crop contributed to the rash of burned sugar, but it is only part of the problem, executives at the annual Datagro sugar and ethanol conference in Sao Paulo said Tuesday.

"The quality of raw sugar in Brazil has improved over the years, and this means it has lower moisture levels and creates more dust," Copersucar Chairman Luis Roberto Poggetti said. "Combined with the hot, dry weather, it's a dangerous mix."

Poggetti said mills were exploring measures including altering the production process for bulk raw sugar, sometimes referred to as VHP for very high polarized sugar, so that it has higher moisture content or bigger crystals to reduce ambient dust levels.

Copersucar, Brazil's biggest sugar and ethanol trader, lost most of its 10-million-tonne export terminal in Santos Port to fire in October 2013, sending sugar futures prices soaring over concerns about supply.

That same month, a sugar warehouse of local company Agrovia in the interior of the center-south cane belt went up in smoke.

As the worst drought on record in southeastern Brazil dragged into South America's spring, two more warehouses at Santos port burned down.

One in August belonged to local sugar producer Cosan . Most recently, a warehouse jointly owned by U.S.-based Cargill Inc and Biosev, the local sugar and ethanol unit of France's Louis Dreyfus , burned on Monday.   Continuación...