Fire controlled at Cosan's Brazil sugar export terminal in Santos

SAO PAULO Mon Aug 4, 2014 7:18am EDT

SAO PAULO Aug 4 (Reuters) - Firefighters at Brazil's Santos Port contained a blaze at two sugar warehouses operated by Cosan SA early on Monday, but the damage threatened to disrupt exports.

The fire broke out at the sugar terminal's Warehouse X at 4:30 p.m. local time (1930 GMT) on Sunday, and 100 firefighters were on site Monday morning, said press representatives for Cosan, Brazil's biggest sugar producer. The cause of the fire was unknown.

Last October, fire gutted the Santos export terminal of Brazil's largest sugar trader, Copersucar SA, quickly sending futures prices up 6 percent and causing the trader to issue force majeure to its clients.

A spokesman at the Santos fire department said workers had finished controlling the fire and started an "aftermath" operation around 4 a.m. local time. He did not estimate the structural damage but said it had been a large-scale blaze.

There was no sign that the fire had spread beyond the warehouses controlled by Rumo LogĂ­stica, Cosan's logistic unit at the port. Copersucar's terminal, which is still under repair from the October fire, is right next to Rumo.

Loss of the sugar stored in Rumo's warehouses, which can hold 550,000 tonnes, is likely to be of less concern than the potential damage to the terminal's capacity to export 12 million tonnes a year.

The fire will probably disrupt short-term loading of sugar into ships at the Rumo terminal. Photographs in the local media showed large, thick columns of black and gray smoke rising from the terminal.

When large stockpiles of sugar ignite, they can be difficult to extinguish quickly. As the substance burns, it creates a carbonized outer shell that inhibits the penetration of water and chemicals that would otherwise snuff out the fire.

Brazil, the world's largest producer and exporter of sugar, is in the middle of its main center-south cane harvest that is expected to produce 32 million to 34 million tonnes, slightly less than estimated earlier in the year due to an ongoing drought. (Reporting by Roberto Samora and Reese Ewing; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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