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Sugar delays to ease as Santos port

Delays in sugar loading at Santos are expected to ease as Latin America’s No. 1 port modernizes, port and shipping executives said on Friday.

Santos, Brazil’s leading sugar port, has seen delays in sugar loading stretching to several weeks, before the peak of the harvest over the last two years. The delays in the world’s top sugar producer and exporter have been a factor contributing to a rally in sugar futures prices to near four-month peaks.

Sugar operations at Santos are at full tilt, and suppliers such as Cosan’s (CSAN3.SA) Rumo and Copersucar are investing to modernize facilities and cut load times.

Meanwhile, port authorities are dredging in the middle of the channel to improve access by bulk ships to terminals.

“I expect investments like the new roof planned for the Rumo terminal to reduce loading delays as it will enable sugar to be loaded when it drizzles,” Rodrigo Bitencourt Pinho, operations manager at shipping agency Unimar, told Reuters.

He was echoing the views of shipping executives at Santos, who said other terminals could follow Rumo’s lead and build a state-of-the-art roof over vessels in the coming years in order to be competitive.

But some voiced concerns over risks that even when a terminal has a roof over a loading vessel, strong winds and lashing rains could still blow into the terminal and risk damaging cargo.

Santos typically experiences rain during more than 100 days in a year, shipping officials said, quoting metereological studies.

A Reuters correspondent on Friday took a boat trip around the port during heavy rains that halted sugar loadings.

Sugar loading delays, which had been concentrated at the Teag terminal, operated by commodities traders Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, had eased this week after bottlenecks built up earlier in the harvest due to a lack of availability of cane.

Analysts have slashed their forecasts for Brazilian sugar output because of a combination of adverse weather and aging cane plants.

Iron ore miner Vale (VALE5.SA) expects to invest 3.5 billion reais ($2.25 billion) in infrastructure projects over the next three years, including a railway system and port berths at Santos, Vale Chief Executive Murilo Ferreira said. [ID:nN1E76L0MG]

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