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Bunge's agent overturns Brazil injunction blocking access to key port

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By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, April 15 (Reuters) - Brazil's Litoral Soluções, an unlisted port agent representing U.S. grain trader Bunge , won the reversal of an injunction blocking its right to ship grains from a key southern Brazilian port's public terminal.

The ruling, seen by Reuters on Thursday, was handed down on Wednesday by Judge João Carlos Franco, who overturned his own decision from last week suspending the contract.

A final court decision is still pending on whether Litoral's contract, which was supposed to take effect on April 12, will enter force.

The deal allows Bunge's agent to ship an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of grains per year through April 2023, a volume representing about 10% of the U.S. trader's soy and corn exports from Brazil last year, according to shipping data.

The decision is the latest twist in a long-running dispute between Bunge and its port agent and competitors, who complain the pair have been granted a virtual monopoly of use of the public terminal.

Last year, the port authority proposed a new model under which port operators would potentially rotate based on their ability to generate grain volumes and fees for the public terminal. Litoral's rivals have challenged the framework's fairness and legality, with mixed success.

The port authority had waived payment of 30% worth of port fees, corresponding to about 12.6 million reais ($2.2 million), due when Litoral's new contract entered force, according to documents seen by Reuters. Litoral told Reuters in a statement it deposited that fee in the authority's bank account, however.

Litoral also said it had won the contract fairly and had done nothing wrong.

Bunge said it did not bid directly for the contact, adding that it was not involved in any legal or administrative disputes. "Litoral is an independent company that provides services to Bunge," it said.

The managers of São Francisco do Sul port did not have an immediate comment. ($1 = 5.6297 reais) (Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Christian Plumb and Rosalba O'Brien)