South America Calling

Brazilian Truckers Block Highways Monday

An independent group of truckers blocked highways in eight Brazilian states Monday in a repeat of the protests that delayed grain and meat transport earlier in the year.

As was the case in March and April, the blockades were most numerous Monday in the southern states of Parana, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

The movement is organized by the National Transport Command and doesn't count on the support of many truckers groups and haulage firms.

But the fact remains that it only takes a few truckers to block a road.

The freight industry has taken a big hit with the dramatic slowdown in the Brazilian economy, and the National Transport Command has a bucket list of demands to help ease the impact on truckers, including lower diesel prices, minimum freight rates, fixed salary scales and subsidized credit.

However, there appears to be an overtly political element to the latest strike with placards demanding that President Dilma Rousseff be ousted to the fore in many of the photos of blockades Monday.

The government argues that it made concessions on many of the truckers' demands following the last stoppage in April and, according to local news reports, it is hopeful the movement will peter out quickly.

A two-week stoppage in late February and early March heavily disrupted the flow of soybeans and chicken and pork to ports. A subsequent five-day stoppage in April didn't have a significant impact, though.

It is now low season for soybean exports, but Brazil is in the middle of exporting record volumes of corn. Ship lineups indicate over 5 million metric tons (mmt) of corn are due to be shipped this month.

Unlike in previous strikes, highways in Mato Grosso, the No. 1 soy state, remain unblocked.

(AG)

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