Traffic restrictions on the river Seine during next summer’s Olympics in Paris, including a week-long closure before the opening ceremony, could upend grain transport in the midst of the harvest in the EU’s top exporter, an industry group warned.
The Seine is a major route for bringing crop to the northern port of Rouen, France’s biggest grain export terminal, and barge traffic on the river is particularly busy in July when harvesting is in full swing.
Intercereales warned that drastic curbs on river navigation could cost the industry about 500 million euros ($550 million) as companies would have to find more expensive replacement trucks to haul grain, and risk losing out on export shipments as supplies are stuck inland.
At a meeting on Thursday with the prefect – or head of administration – for the Paris region, the industry group requested that some grain barges be given special permission to use the Seine during a closure planned for the week up to the July 26 Olympics opening ceremony, said Jean-Francois Lepy, who is in charge of logistics issues at Intercereales.
The industry is seeking assurances too that half-day access for shipping during the Olympics, outside of swimming competitions planned for the Seine, will be workable in relation to river lock and port schedules, said Lepy, who is also head of trading at agribusiness group InVivo.
“We hope to get details about navigation at the start of next year and we’ll see if things will be viable or if we’re going to have a real problem,” he told Reuters on Friday.
The Paris region prefect’s office said it would study solutions to meet the grain sector’s needs following Thursday’s meeting as part of its wider efforts to limit disruption to commercial activity on the Seine during the Olympics.
Intercereales estimates that some 3 million metric tons of grain are transported by barge along the Seine to Rouen each year, representing about 30% of the volume handled by the port.