(Adds comments from minister, truckers’ strike threat, context)
By Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Alberto Alerigi
RIO DE JANEIRO/SÃO PAULO, May 18 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government is discussing possible tax cuts to reduce the price of fuel at the pump, the country’s energy minister, Wellington Moreira Franco, said on Friday as truck drivers planned a national strike to protest high diesel prices.
Diesel and gasoline prices have surged more than 45 percent at Brazilian refineries since last year as state-controlled oil company Petrobras passes on recent increases in global crude prices.
Moreira Franco said fuel prices were “too high” and there was a need to discuss the issue.
“The government is impressed with the continuing increase in fuel prices and it is discussing a possible cut on taxes to reduce their costs,” the minister told reporters in Rio de Janeiro.
He said the discussion is focused on both federal taxes, such as the so called PIS/Cofins, and state-level taxes. An eventual agreement, then, would have to involve state governors as well.
Moreira Franco said there was no timeframe for a possible decision and implementation despite the ongoing talks.
Truck owners are threatening a widespread strike if the government fails to act to reduce diesel costs.
Abcam, a local truckers association, said truckers would go on strike on Monday if the government did not come up with a position on possible measures to reduce costs by the end of Friday.
A large part of goods transportation in Brazil, including commodities such as sugar and grains, is by road.
Fuel costs have also impacted the agricultural sector in Brazil and worldwide. Farmers are about to start to harvest the country’s main corn crop and have complained about high operational costs.
Writing by Marcelo Teixeira Editing by Bernadette Baum and Paul Simao