Largest Brazilian Port Running Out of Soybeans

03:45PM May 25, 2018
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(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s economy remained strangled for a fifth-day as many truckers maintained a nationwide strike on Friday despite government attempts to reach a deal with unions on fuel prices.

News reports showed many truckers still lining up on the side of the roads, while airlines notified customers of further flight cancellations on Friday due to lack of fuel in several of the country’s main airports. The largest port in Latin America was said to be running out of soybeans.

While the government said Thursday evening that eight of 10 unions agreed to a proposal that would suspend price increases and lower taxes on diesel, the country’s truckers confederation issued a statement on Friday saying it had committed to just “pass along” the offer, and not to end the strike.

As part of the accord announced on Thursday, diesel prices, which had been adjusted daily according to market rates, will now be fixed for 30 days. The government and state-run oil company Petrobras will split any extra costs.

Still, truckers group Abcam -- which didn’t take the government’s deal -- said the number of highway blockades rose to 521 on Friday from 402 the day prior. Local media reported that drivers continued protesting in at least 14 states. Abcam represents about 700,000 of roughly one million self-employed truck drivers.

Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha told reporters on Friday that strike will be gradually demobilized. “We’ve fulfilled our part of the agreement and expect them to fulfill theirs,” referring to truckers’ unions. “It’s a slow process.”

Nationwide Chaos

Authorities have proved hard pressed to calm the chaos let loose by the strike that erupted Monday, set off by fuel-price increases of about 50 percent over a year. President Michel Temer fumbled initial attempts to pacify the situation: Petrobras cut the price of diesel by 10 percent for two weeks, but that retreat spooked investors and also failed to appease the truckers.

On Friday, there were signs of further damage to Latin America’s largest economy. Carmakers were due to stop production lines, and American Airlines suspended its Miami-Brasilia flights on concern about fuel supplies. The government of the city of Sao Paulo, the nation’s largest, declared state of emergency due to the strike.

Brazil, which is larger than the continental U.S., is specially vulnerable to disruption in transportation. It relies heavily on trucks to move cargo as it has only a small network of railways that cater mostly to shipping raw materials such as iron ore or soybeans.


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