China Communications to build Brazilian soybean port as trade war with US looms

A consortium led by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) began work on Friday (16 March) to build the port of São Luís in the northeast Brazilian state of Maranhão to boost the country’s ability to handle soybean exports. According to the Xinhua news agency, the project will cost $245m, and create 4,000 jobs once its four-year construction period is over.

The main job of the port will be to handle agricultural exports, including some of the 54 million tonnes of soybeans that China buys from Brazil each year. The port will have enough capacity to handle about 10 million tons of cargo a year, of which 7 million will be soybeans and corn, 1.5 million will be fertilisers.

The volume of soybeans exported, which is likely to increase in any case, may be about to undergo explosive growth if China chooses to impose a punitive tariff on its imports of US beans in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to impose import duties on steel and aluminium.

At present, China imports about half of the US’ entire 100 million tonne soybean crop.

The project also marks a significant step in CCCC’s plans to expand its business in Brazil, a market it entered in 2016 when it opened an office in Sao Paulo. At the time it gave its list of priorities as firstly ports, then railways, roads and airports.

In 2016, it purchased 80% of Concremat, a Brazilian engineering enterprise, for R$350 million and signed a deal to obtain 51% of ownership of a new port in Sao Luis, in the northeastern state of Maranhao, which will be built through a partnership with WPR, a branch of the Brazilian company W Torre. At that time the cost was expected to be about $500m and work was scheduled to begin in the second half of 2017.

In 2016, CCCC registered revenue of $66 billion and a profit of $2.6 billion.

Image: Avenida Colares Moreira in São Luís (Lyssuel Calvet/Flickr)

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