Bulk grain shippers hauling crops from the U.S. Gulf Coast export hub to Asia are sailing longer routes and paying higher freight costs to avoid vessel congestion and record-high transit fees in the drought-hit Panama Canal, traders and analysts said. The shipping snarl through one of the world's main maritime trade routes comes at the peak season for U.S. crop exports, and the higher costs are threatening to dent demand for U.S. corn and soy suppliers that have already ceded market share to Brazil in recent years. Ships moving crops have faced wait times of up to three weeks to pass through the canal as container vessels and others that sail on more regular schedules are scooping up the few transit slots available.
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