Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced funding recently for the widening of what's known as Brazil's "soybean highway" -- BR-163 -- to four lanes for most of the length of Mato Grosso. The project is expected to be completed in five years.
The current two-lane highway runs north and south through the middle of Mato Grosso and is the only major highway leading in and out of the state's main grain-producing region.
South American crop consultant Dr. Michael Cordonnier says grain companies have already constructed export facilities at the Port of Santarem in anticipation of the highway's completion. "Once the highway is completely asphalted, it is expected to result in a 30% saving in transportation costs over trucking the soybeans and corn south to ports in southeastern Brazil," he says.
"Long-term plans in Brazil call for highways, rail lines and barging operations to carry grain north in Brazil to the Amazon River instead of south to ports in southern Brazil, but Brazil only spends about 1.5% of its GDP on infrastructure, while the long-run global average is 3.8%. To catch up with the rest of the world, Brazil would need to triple its infrastructure spending for the next 20 years," adds Dr. Cordonnier. "Additionally, much of the infrastructure spending in recent years has been on a dozen new soccer stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and they will spend even more on the 2016 Olympic to be held in Rio. The stadiums may be nice, but they have siphoned away resources that could have been used for highway and rail construction."