May 3 (Bloomberg) — Brazilian exports fell in April as prices for the country’s commodities such as aluminum and iron dropped and a work slowdown by port inspectors held up shipments from South America’s largest economy.
Exports dropped 17 percent from March to $6.59 billion, cutting the trade surplus to $1.96 billion, a government report showed. Imports fell 13 percent to $4.63 billion. Development and Trade Minister Luiz Fernando Furlan said that the work slowdown, which began April 6, cut exports by $500 million in the month as ports and roads clogged.
“The strike worsened the problem we have every year of channeling the harvest through roads and ports that are not capable of coping with the load,” said Alexsandro Agostini, an economist at consultancy Global Invest in Curitiba, Brazil.
Exports — the driver behind Brazil’s recovery — will likely keep declining in coming months as prices for commodities drop as China, the world’s fastest-growing market for commodities, seeks to slow its economy, Agostini said.
Companies such as Gerdau SA, Latin America’s largest steelmaker, expect sales growth to China to slow this year. Frederico Johannpeter, the company’s vice president, said last week that Gerdau expects long steel sales growth to China to drop this year to between 10 percent and 15 percent from an average of 20 percent in the past couple of years.
“The record trade figures we had in the beginning of the year were pushed mainly by metals and agricultural commodities,” Agostini said in a telephone interview. “Now commodity prices are coming back to normal levels because China signaled it will slow down growth.”
Furlan, speaking in an interview in Washington, said he still expects Brazil to surpass its 2004 export goal of $82 billion, giving the country a surplus of above $20 billion.
Overall commodity prices fell 4 percent in April after rising 3.3 percent in March, according to the Commodity Research Bureau index.
China Central Bank vice-governor Wu Xiaoling has called on banks to cooperate with curbs on credit to slow the country’s economic expansion to less than 8 percent this year from last year’s 9.1 percent. China’s banking regulator said it told banks to stop lending to industries that aren’t approved by the government.
To contact the reporter on this story: Carlos Caminada