March 8, 2019 / 4:21 PM / 3 months ago

Brazil reopens traffic on key soy export highway

SAO PAULO, March 8 (Reuters) - Traffic on Brazil’s key grain shipping highway BR-163, linking the agriculture belt to northern ports, was totally re-established by late on Thursday after being deemed “unnavigable” earlier in the week, transport authority Dnit said.

The poor state of the road, parts of which are unpaved, had led authorities to block traffic as emergency repairs were made. Dnit had previously said roads would be closed until at least Friday.

Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soy but the holdup on BR-163 illustrates the country’s lacking logistical infrastructure, which delays shipments and raises costs.

The resumption of traffic will relieve pressure on dwindling soy stocks at some ports. Soy industry group Abiove had said on Thursday that stocks of the oilseed had nearly run out of at the ports of Miritituba and Barcarena in northern Para state as result of the snarled roadway.

Brazil is expected to produce roughly 115 million tonnes of soybeans in the 2018/19 crop season, the second-largest harvest in its history, according to agriculture statistics agency Conab.

In the previous crop year, 28 percent of soy and corn shipments were exported through northern routes including BR-163 to ports that are closer to Europe.

Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio Freitas has vowed to finish paving BR-163 this year. Previous governments have missed targets for paving the road.

“2019 will be the last year we have difficulty on this stretch. BR-163 is a priority for us,” Freitas was quoted as saying in the Dnit statement. (Reporting by Jose Roberto Gomes Writing by Jake Spring)

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