Brazil’s key Tietê-Paraná waterway re-opened at the end of January after a 20-month closure due to drought and the diversion of water for electricity, reports the Estado de S Paulo newspaper.
The waterway is a key transport route for exports of soyabeans, corn, cellulose, fertiliser and other agricultural products, connecting to the Port of Santos on the Atlantic coast, near São Paulo.
Its closure forced more of Brazil's production from the key farming states of São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul onto more expensive and precarious road and rail systems.
The paper said each of the waterway’s barge trains could carry the equivalent of 200 highway trucks of cargo.
Water that could have helped maintain river and canal levels was used instead for electricity due to rising energy demand and the delay of giant new power projects. Sao Paulo, South America's largest city, came critically close to running out of drinking water, the Estado de S Paulo report said.
Rains at the end of 2015 intensified in January, helping water levels on rivers in Brazil's southeast and central-west to recover from one of the worst droughts in decades.
The USA, Brazil and Argentina are the world’s biggest exporters of soyabeans. While soyabeans in the USA have to travel, on average, the longest distance to reach export facilities, the country’s advanced river and rail infrastructure allowed for the oilseed to reach export markets in a timely manner, according to a HighQuest report (see ‘A work in progress’, OFI September/October 2015).
In contrast, storage and transportation infrastructure have not grown in Brazil to match its substantial growth in soya and corn production.