By Ana Mano and José Roberto Gomes
SAO PAULO, May 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian commodities exporters were scrambling to resume operations after striking truckers protesting high fuel prices slowly returned to work in Latin America’s largest economy.
Terminal operators at Santos port said on Wednesday that truckers had not yet resumed loading and unloading goods after the movement started to unwind following an agreement to cut fuel taxes and lower diesel prices at the pump.
“Truckers are parked at many points, apparently awaiting orders or better conditions to continue their journeys,” said Sopesp, an association representing port operators at Santos, the country’s busiest port.
Paranaguá port administrators, Brazil’s second busiest hub for exports of commodities like soybeans, estimated 643,000 tonnes of products had not been shipped during the protests, which started on May 21.
The port said 280,000 tonnes of soybeans and soymeal that should have been loaded onto six vessels during the last days had not arrived at the terminals.
The situation underscores the shortcomings of Brazil’s logistical system, which relies mainly on trucks to move about 60 percent of the country’s cargo.
The world’s largest soy exporter, Brazil is forecast to sell 72 million tonnes of the oilseeds in global markets this year, according to projections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Some 63 soy crushing units had ground to a halt as a result of the protests and remained shut pending deliveries of raw materials, said Abiove, the trade group representing processors and grain handlers like Bunge Inc and Cargill Ltd. Abiove said operations would gradually return to normal as truckers were expected to resume deliveries of raw materials in the next few hours.
“A week, maybe 10 days will be needed for grain shipments to resume at the ports,” Lucas Trindade, a spokesperson for exporting group Anec, said. Anec said soybean exporters may declare “force majeure” on shipments, a contractual clause that releases them from obligations because of events beyond their control.
Coffee exports from Brazil, the world’s largest producer, in May are likely to be 900,000 60-kg bags below expectations due to the protests, according to exporters association Cecafé.
A manager for a leading coffee exporter at Santos, who asked not to be named, said there were hardly any coffee deliveries at exporting terminals during the last 10 days. Coffee is exported on containers, which are carried by trucks from warehouses to the port. (Reporting by Ana Mano and Marcelo Teixeira Writing by Ana Mano Editing by Leslie Adler)