Apr 21, 2023

Brazil to Increase Fertilizer Imports Through Northern Ports

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Brazilian exporters continue to increase the volume of grain exported out of Brazil's "Northern Arc" of ports and now there is a push to use those ports to increase fertilizer imports as well. Traditionally, most Brazil's fertilizer imports enter through ports in southeastern Brazil requiring the fertilizer to be trucked long distances into the interior of the country. Utilizing the northern ports would greatly reduce transportation costs. Brazil imports approximately 85% of its fertilizer needs.

The logistical company VLI recently announced the purchase of 78 more Hopper HTT rail cars to increase the movement of fertilizers from the Atlantic port of Itaqui in the state of Maranhao into the interior of Brazil. The company's main activity is the transportation of iron ore from its primary customer, the mining company Vale. The iron ore is transported via the North-South railroad to the Port of Itaqui. In 2022 the company moved 15 million tons through this northern corridor compared to 12.7 million in 2021.

Fertilizers imported through the Port of Itaqui would then be transported south via the North-South railroad to a fertilizer distribution hum being built by Mosaic in the state of Tocantins. The hub would also serve for grain transportation as well. The fertilizer/grain hub would service the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, Bahia, and Piaui. The initial investment in the hub is estimated at R$ 200 million.

The new hopper cars, which are produced by Greenbrier Maxion, can also transport grain in addition to fertilizers. The cars are designed to carry heavier loads with a special interior paint that allows for more rapid discharge with less cargo left inside the car.

Since 2020, VLI has purchased 300 hopper cars and six locomotives to move cargo through this northern corridor. The company expects to move 1.5 million tons of fertilizers annually through their Itaqui facility.