SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Fire broke out at two Santos Port warehouses controlled by Copersucar, Brazil’s biggest trader of sugar and ethanol, early on Friday, said Francisco Milani of the Santos Fire Department.
Copersucar says nearly a fifth of the world’s sea-borne sugar trade flows through its trading desks.
Milani said firefighters were trying to contain the blaze at Santos Port warehouses 20 and 21 which belonged to Copersucar.
“They are trying at this point to keep the fire from spreading to a third warehouse,” said Milani, representative of the local fire department.
Codesp, which manages the day-to-day operations at Santos, said the fire broke out shortly after 6:00 a.m. Brasilia time(0900 GMT), after which a ship berthed at the terminal was removed.
Televised footage of the fire that appeared on local network TV O Globo News showed smoke billowing out of a warehouse at what appeared to be the Copersucar terminal, as firefighters tried to control the blaze. The reporter on the scene said the warehouse typically holds 90,000 tons of sugar.
The conveyor belts that transport sugar from the affected warehouse to others at the terminal in Santos appeared to have toppled over or were lying on the pavement along the side of the warehouse. The roof of the warehouse, which bore the Roman numerals XI on its side, appeared to be totally destroyed.
Copersucar representatives were not immediately available to comment.
Only in June, Copersucar had inaugurated its expansion project at Santos that doubled its export capacity to 10 million tons a year.
Brazil is at the tail end of a record 585 million metric tons center-south cane harvest that is expected to produce 34 million tons of sugar. Roughly 15 percent of the crop remains to be crushed.
Copersucar represents 47 sugar mills in Brazil and recorded revenues of $4.1 billion in 2012. The company says it controls 17 percent of the world’s sea-borne trade in sugar. The company had hoped in June to expand its trading volume to 9 million tons from 7.2 million tons in 2012.
Reporting by Reese Ewing, Roberta Vilas Boas and Alberto Alerigi Jr.; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn