Brazil sugar ship queue edges up as cane crush enters peak
* Light showers expected from Sunday
* Drier conditions favored crushing since end of early June rains
* Port workers threatening strike from June 25
SAO PAULO, June 13 (Reuters) - The lineup of ships waiting to load sugar at Brazilian ports has edged up to 55 vessels from 54 a week ago, as crushing of the record 2013/14 cane crop enters its peak, shipping agents Williams Servicos Maritimos Ltda said. Rains earlier this week along the coast of southeastern Brazil slowed loading of sugar at the main port of Santos for a day, but cleared quickly. Harvesting of the 590 million-tonne cane crop in the interior of the center-south region has been largely uninterrupted since heavy rains let up in the first two days of June, local weather forecaster Somar said on Thursday. "The concern now is that rain will spread through the cane region from Sunday, but it will be light and offer little threat of causing widespread stoppage of crushing," Somar meteorologist Nadiara Pereira said, adding that there could be isolated areas of stronger showers. Rains stop harvesting and slow the production of sugar as mills favor ethanol when additional moisture dilutes sucrose in the cane plant and makes production of the sweetener more expensive compared with ethanol. Dock workers said earlier this week they could strike at all Brazilian ports from June 25 if changes are not made to the government's plans to auction off a series of new port terminals to the private sector later in 2013. Stevedores say they are concerned about losing jobs if new terminal owners are allowed to hire outside the unionized labor pool. In recent port strikes, however, the impact on the loading of bulk raw sugar has been limited, though the loading of bagged whites has been more prone to slowdowns during labor stoppages. The cold front that will reach the main center-south and Santos over the weekend will lower temperatures over the cane belt, which will help plants raise their sucrose levels and improve sugar and ethanol yields in the coming weeks. Favorable conditions for cane crushing and loading the sweetener at the port over the past 10 days are currently reflected in sugar futures prices on the New York ICE exchange. Spot July was up .07 cent at 16.28 cents a lb, its lowest level in nearly three years. Brazil's main sugar and ethanol industry association, Unica, reported on Tuesday that rains in the second half of May slowed mills' harvest and production of sugar in the region compared with the first half of last month.
PHYSICAL The flow of raw, very high polarization (VHP) sugar due to leave Brazilian ports over the next week or two was largely stable with the previous week at 1.49 million tonnes, Williams shipping agents said. The outflow of 150 ICUMSA (International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis) crystal sugar will climb to 122,700 from 51,100 tonnes over the same period. Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugar and controls half the world's exports in the commodity. The main center-south cane belt has entered the peak of its annual harvest period after rains slowed the start to the season in early April. The table below details the number of sugar vessels at Brazil's main ports and the volume of sugar to be loaded in tonnes.
JUNE 12 VESSELS WHITE RAWS SANTOS 39 66,000 1,149,230 PARANAGUA 15 56,700 338,955 VITORIA 1 0 7,000 RECIFE 0 0 0 MACEIO 0 0 0 SUAPE 0 0 0 TOTAL 55 122,700 1,488,185 JUNE 5 VESSELS WHITE RAWS SANTOS 37 33,400 1,128,699 PARANAGUA 14 17,700 401,600 VITORIA 2 0 14,000 RECIFE 1 0 4,625 MACEIO 0 0 0 SUAPE 0 0 0 TOTAL 54 51,100 1,534,927 MAY 16 VESSELS WHITE RAWS SANTOS 22 38,800 737,558 PARANAGUA 8 36,842 188,049 VITORIA 0 0 0 RECIFE 0 0 0 MACEIO 2 0 40,418 SUAPE 0 0 0 TOTAL 32 75,642 966,025 MAY 9 VESSELS WHITE RAWS SANTOS 23 46,800 784,614 PARANAGUA 11 54,142 235,219 VITORIA 0 0 0 RECIFE 0 0 MACEIO 3 0 58,584 SUAPE 0 0 0 TOTAL 37 100,942 1,078,417
(Reporting by Reese Ewing; editing by Jim Marshall)