Low river level hits Paraguay’s soyabean exports

Paraguayan exporters are struggling to ship soyabeans due to low water levels in sections of the Paraná and Paraguay rivers, says Juan Carlos Munoz, head of Paraguay’s maritime and shipping chamber CAFyM.

More than 120 barges loaded with soyabeans had been affected due to extremely low water levels in a certain section of the Paraná River, Munoz said in the 17 April report.

These barges, which usually transported 1,600 tonnes of soyabeans, needed at least 1.1m for navigation but the water level in the affected area was about 30cm.

“Barges cannot navigate under these conditions. The scenario is really worrying,” he said.

Paraguayan exporters usually shipped nearly 30% of total soyabean exports via this section of the Paraná River.

The government of Paraguay was due to hold talks with Brazilian authorities to try to find a solution to this adverse scenario.

Munoz explained that the only solution would be if the bi-national Itaipu dam, which was controlled by Brazil and Paraguay, could free up water volumes in order to increase water levels in this area.

Navigation also presented logistics hurdles at the Paraguay River, he added.

Some soyabean producers from regions including Alto Paraná, Caazapá, Itapuã, and Misiones

were transporting soyabean via lorries to the Asuncion area, to reach other ports in the region, he said.

“This is increasing logistics costs for producers as they have to pay an additional $8/tonne of soyabean to reach the Asuncion region,” Munoz added.

Paraguay was set to produce more than 10M tonnes of soyabeans in the 2019/20 crop year, with exports would represent nearly 75% of overall production, AgriCensus said.

Barges are used in Paraguay to ship soyabean to ports in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.