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Waterway master plan called for amid discouraging weather forecast — MercoPress

Paraguay: Waterway master plan called for amid discouraging weather forecast

Tuesday, May 7th 2024 – 18:57 UTC

The Paraguay-Paraná Waterway is fundamental for Paraguay's foreign trade
The Paraguay-Paraná Waterway is fundamental for Paraguay’s foreign trade

Water levels below average at the Paraná-Paraguay river waterway have traders concerned over the future of their business. However, there seems to be consensus on the need to develop a master plan to tackle the grim situation stemming from discouraging precipitation forecasts despite abundant rainfall in recent weeks.

The overall conditions pose new challenges to Asunción’s foreign trade, the Paraguayan Chamber of Oilseed and Cereal Processors (Cámara Paraguaya de Procesadores de Oleaginosas y Cereales – Cappro) reckoned. The guild also explained that the current situation affected the arrival of imported inputs, further impacting the country’s foreign trade.

By late March, about 30 vessels waited several days without being able to cross the Bermejo Passage, until the channel was cleaned, with cost overruns in logistics to be in the end passed on to buyers. In recent weeks there has been some relief with heavy rains in the middle basin of the Paraguay River, but the volume of rainfall accumulated in the year in the region of influence of the Paraguay-Paraná Waterway is nevertheless below expectations, Cappro admitted.

As a result of the current water levels, barges cannot be loaded to full capacity. In addition, they need to sail at lower speeds, thus causing further hindrances to the transport of goods.

“The low water not only affects Paraguay in terms of exports but also in the supply of inputs necessary for its productive activities or even for consumption, so it permeates the entire national economy,” Cappro warned.

In the first quarter of 2024, 82% of Paraguay’s soybean and grain (corn and wheat) exports left through the waterway. Hence, Cappro finds it of the most essence to develop a master plan that should comprehensively address the problems in navigation to rescue the endangered agribusiness.

“From Cappro we consider it imperative to develop a master plan for the waterway, which should comprehensively address current and future challenges, reducing dependence on weather conditions,” the guild said in a statement. The roadmap should include dredging and maintenance, adequate beaconing and signaling, control of river traffic, and the implementation of technology to streamline related processes and procedures, within a framework of public-private participation, Cappro said while pointing out the need to coordinate actions with the signatory countries of the Waterway Agreement.

Paraguay’s Meteorological Directorate Deputy Hydrology Director Jorge Sánchez said that the Paraguay River would remain at levels below average for the rest of the year.

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