Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Some roads reopened in Brazil; truck strike persists

Sao Paulo | Reuters — Striking truckers lifted their blockade of dozens of highways in Brazil after police began fining and arresting protesters, though strike organizers said they had no plans to end their stoppage now in its 10th day.

Road blockages were reported at 61 locations in six states on Friday, down from 88 roadblocks the previous day, according to the latest report from highway police. Most protesting drivers rejected an initial government offer and negotiations were not scheduled to resume until March 10.

By late Friday, blockages were up slightly from earlier in the day. Still, a spokesman for Paranagua port said 514 soy trucks had arrived on Friday, up from 255 trucks the same time on Thursday. Brazil is the world’s No. 2 soy producer and a top global supplier.

Silos at Paranagua, Brazil’s second-largest soy export port, now have enough soybeans to keep filling ships until March 3 rather than March 2, spokeswoman Ceres Battistelli said.

“That buys us one more day we could load ships without running out of soybeans,” Battistelli said.

Chicago Board Of Trade March soybeans have risen steadily on fears of supply disruptions because of the strike and were up 0.4 per cent on Friday.

The highway police bulletin said 25 fines had been issued in Parana state, where Paranagua is located, and one person had been arrested in Mato Grosso do Sul state.

Brazil’s top soybean export port of Santos has remained open without disruption since Wednesday.

The trucker strike was sparked by mounting frustration over high diesel prices and rising freight costs. Brazil’s government has yet to sufficiently address those concerns, the president of national autonomous transport federation Diumar Bueno told Reuters, meaning there is no end in site for the protests.

The government has offered to freeze diesel prices for six months but not to lower them.

Another protest leader told Reuters on Thursday that drivers were not swayed by Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo’s threat to impose fines of 5,000 to 10,000 reais (C$2,200-$4,400) per hour on truckers who illegally blocked roads.

Chairman Abilio Diniz of BRF SA, the world’s largest chicken exporter, said on Friday the company was struggling to fulfill export orders because of the blockages.

“This is a sad moment for our country,” Diniz said.

Reporting for Reuters by Reese Ewing, Leonardo Goy and Caroline Stauffer; additional reporting by Jeb Blount.

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