The soy harvest in Uruguay has been so good that it has surpassed the capacity of ports to export it. This, in turn, is leading to higher transport costs as a function of greater demand. Producers are angry that the port of Nueva Palmira has not yet been sufficiently developed to handle enough bulk carriers, however the National Ports Administration (ANP) is discussing various options to prevent a repeat of last year's congestion problems when a similar record harvest generated a large number of complaints from both producers and shipping companies given the inadequacy of the logistics capacity to cope.
According to analysts, the need for consignments to queue awaiting a vessel is causing prices to rise and therefore leading to Uruguayan soya being less competitive in world markets.
The ANP is looking at deploying barges along the river Uruguay to bypass crowded roads and therefore get consignments to the dock as fast as possible. Furthermore, these would be able to undertake direct vessel-to-vessel transfer. Although barge costs are somewhat higher than those for road transport, barges remain competitive in the face of road haulage congestion.
Large vessels are also handicapped when calling at ports in Uruguay. The failure to dredge the Martin Garcia Canal means that many Panamax bulk carriers can only load up to 75% capacity, resulting in consignments being limited to 45,000 tonnes out of a possible 65,000 tonnes.