Brazil -- Day 5

Inside Dakota Ag

Brazil Day 5: Of horse drawn wagons and giant cargo ships

Published on: February 3, 2011

We toured Brazil’s biggest soybean port – Paranagua. It located on the southeast coast of Brazil – more than 600 miles from state of Mato Grosso where the soybeans grown.

Though modern and efficient, the port is one of the major bottlenecks in getting Brazil soybeans to markets. It’s said that trucks wait in lines stretching 60 miles to unload during the peak of the export season. The round trip from Mato Grosso to the port can take up to three weeks.

Apparently, the port authority has more than $250 million on hand for expansion. One plan is to dreg the channel to the sea so the port can handle the biggest tankers on the ocean today. Another is to build second grain pier, which would more than double the number of vessels that could be loaded with soybeans at the same time.

Leaving the meeting with the port authority, one Illinois Soybean Association director shook his head in disappointment with U.S. transportation policy. “Brazil is able to maintain their infrastructure and has the money to expand,” he said. “We might see the Mississippi River barge traffic shut down this year because Congress won’t approve the money to maintain the locks.”

When I saw a horse-drawn wagon begin used to haul equipment to a construction site in Paranagua I thought, “this isn’t something you’d see in the U.S. today.”

But maybe Brazil isn’t the one who needs modernize how it hauls freight.