Argentine grains ships leaving the main grains port hub of Rosario are having to cut cargoes by some 30% due to a renewed “record” plunge in water levels of the Parana River, the head of the local ports chamber told Reuters on Tuesday.
The Parana, which carries some 80% of Argentina’s farm exports, is key to billions of dollars of grains shipments from the country, which is the world’s top exporter of processed soy, the second largest of corn and a major wheat producer.
“The ships are leaving with 30% less cargo”, said Guillermo Wade, manager of Argentina’s Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities (CAPyM), adding that this equated to 13,000 tonnes less cargo in a Handymax ship and 16,000 tonnes less in a Panamax.
“Today was the record of the river level decline.”
The Parana had risen since hitting a 77-year low in the middle of last year that had hindered grains transport, but has now dropped again to hit a new low-point at Rosario amid a heat-wave gripping the country and low rainfall upriver.
The river was measured at a reference height of -0.43 meter (-1.4 feet) in Rosario on Tuesday, according to data from the Argentine Naval Prefecture, the lowest since the start of a years-long decline in its level since the end of 2019.
That compares to an average January height of +3.55 meters (+11.65 feet), according to data from the official National Water Institute (INA) between 1996 and 2020. The all-time record low was in 1944 when it fell to -1.39 meters (-4.46 feet).
The low level of the Parana adds to concerns about high temperatures and dry conditions hitting farm regions in the South American country, where early-sown corn plots are developing yields and soybean planting is ongoing.
In its latest monthly report on the Parana river, the INA said the outlook, which has worsened rapidly since late last year, “does not allow us to expect a rapid return to normality” with the low levels likely to continue into the austral autumn.
A silver lining for the sector is that January is usually a month of reduced river traffic, since corn and soybeans, Argentina’s two main crops, have not yet been harvested, leaving wheat as the main grain being exported.