Soyabean exports from Paraguay to Brazil have increased 370% year-on-year in the first half of 2020 due to low water levels complicating other export routes, AgriCensus reported on 14 July.

The latest data published from Paraguay’s central bank also showed that strong Brazilian domestic demand was a factor in the huge export surge.

For the January-June period, Brazil acquired 379,100 tonnes of soyabeans from Paraguay, a dramatic increase from 80,600 tonnes in the same period in 2019. Paraguay exported a total of 3.96M tonnes of soyabeans in the first six months of 2020, up 8.5% on the same period in 2019.

“Although Brazil has had a record soyabean campaign, almost all of its soyabean is being exported to China. Due to this, Brazil increased purchases from Paraguay for domestic consumption,” Daniel Hidalgo, head of the central bank’s foreign trade department, told AgriCensus.

“Brazil will continue buying our soyabeans. It is expected that this growth will continue in the second half, but expectations are that our second main export destination will be Russia,” Hidalgo was quoted as saying.

Exports to Argentina, Paraguay’s largest soyabean importer, reached 3.1M tonnes, up 18.7% year-on-year.

According to Hidalgo, soyabean exports for the whole of 2020 would grow 25% from the 4.9M tonnes exported in 2019.

Exports of soya oil totalled 253,100 tonnes in the January-June period, down 17.6% from the 307,400 tonnes exported in the same period of 2019. Soya meal exports had declined 26.3% to 834,400 tonnes over the period, according to the bank’s statistics.

Around 600,000 tonnes of soyabeans were in storage at Paraguayan ports due to very low water levels in the Paraná River halting the flow of barges, the head of Paraguay’s maritime and shipping chamber, CAFyM, told AgriCensus.

Paraguayan exporters usually shipped nearly 30% of total soyabean exports via this section of the Paraná River. Barges are used to ship soyabeans to ports in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

In the 2019/20 season, Paraguay produced 10.6M tonnes of soybeans, a 34% increase from the previous season and a new record, according to national production association UGP.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said it expected soyabean production in Paraguay to reach 10.25M tonnes in the 2020/21 season, with soyabean exports in 2019/20 and 2020/21 reaching 5.9M tonnes and 6.3M tonnes respectively.

Rural sectors had also been urging the government to negotiate with Chinese authorities to open up this market for Paraguayan soyabean exports, AgriCensus said.