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Key Brazil soybean road leading to northern ports closed until Friday

Wednesday, 06 March 2019 | 20:00

Brazil’s transport infrastructure agency DNIT said a stretch of the BR-163 highway, connecting the country’s agricultural belt to northern ports, was “unnavigable” and would be closed at least until Friday, according to a statement on Tuesday.

The section of the road between the towns of Moraes Almeida and Novo Progresso in Pará state “is degraded,” and urgent action was needed to repair the road in five segments and clear it for traffic, the statement said.

Northern ports provide an alternative gateway to Europe, the United States, and especially to Asia due to their proximity to the Panama Canal.

Brazil exported some 29.6 million tonnes of soy and corn through the northern ports last year, up from 6.1 million tonnes in 2010, Antaq data shows.

Earlier this week, DNIT closed a section of BR-163 to truck traffic between the towns of Santa Helena and Guarantã do Norte, in top soy grower Mato Grosso state, until repair work in the stretches ahead was complete.

While the Mato Grosso side of the highway is fully paved, sections of the BR-163 in Pará are not. The closures in Mato Grosso will stay in place until the problems ahead are solved, DNIT said.

Last February, trucks mainly loaded with soybeans were stranded around Moraes Almeida after Army blockades stopped traffic to clear the road for maintenance and construction.

The BR-163 links Brazil’s grain belt to the river port terminals of Miritituba and Santarém. Obstructions are common at this time of the year because heavy rains in the Amazon region coincide with the soybean harvest in the Center-West.

Every year, long lines of trucks form at certain towns in Mato Grosso and Pará state because of BR-163’s poor condition. Grain growers and exporters say this hurts the nation’s reputation as a reliable exporter.

The DNIT said this week the federal government will complete paving work on BR-163 “by end 2019.”

But two harvests ago in February, when some 2,000 trucks were stranded along the BR-163 in the rainy season, the authorities had promised to finish paving work by end-2018.
Source: Reuters

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