Brazil agribusiness groups seek govt support to keep ports running – letter

SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – A group of almost 50 agribusiness associations has sought support from the federal government to guarantee Brazilian ports continue to operate amid the coronavirus crisis, according to a letter dated March 18 seen by Reuters.

In the letter addressed to President Jair Bolsonaro and Infrastructure Minister Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas, farmers and food processor groups urged action against any potential port disruptions.

The letter was motivated by the threat of dock workers halting activities at Latin America’s largest port in Santos. Losses to agribusiness supply chains would be “incalculable” if Santos port in particular was to be stopped by unionized dock workers, the entities said.

Santos port operators, dock workers and port authorities agreed on measures to ensure the port stayed open while enforcing policies to protect the health of all personnel involved in port activities.

Reuters could not confirm if Freitas or President Bolsonaro had received the letter, which was signed by entities including grain grower group Aprosoja, oilseeds industry association Abiove, coffee exporter group Cecafé and meat association ABPA, among many others.

On his Twitter account, Bolsonaro said on Thursday that there will be “maximum protection” for continued port operations in Brazil.

“To reduce the impacts of the coronavirus in the country and protect the health of the population, we have the mission (of guaranteeing) the circulation of inputs, goods and basic items in all regions,” Bolsonaro said.

Sopesp, a group representing São Paulo state port operators, said port activity was normal on Thursday in Santos, where most of Brazil’s soybeans, coffee and sugar is exported to world markets.

Sources at Paranaguá, Brazil’s second busiest port for agricultural exports like soybeans, did not reply to a request seeking comment on the state of Thursday’s activities.

São Paulo Governor João Doria said on Thursday that the Infrastructure Ministry would support actions to help prevent the ports from being disrupted.

“Closing the country’s largest port would be a disaster,” he said about Santos.

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