Brazil says key soy road won’t be paved until 2016

Brasilia | Reuters –– An important road for soy and corn shipments linking to ports in northern Brazil will not be paved until 2016, the country’s transport minister said on Tuesday.

President Dilma Rousseff said last year that the highway, known as BR-163, would be ready by mid-2015 as the government tries to relieve crowded ports in the southeast.

Delayed infrastructure projects are a perennial problem in Brazil and thought to be part of the reason the country’s economic growth has fallen off in recent years.

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Transport Minister Antonio Carlos Rodrigues said the road would be ready by the end of 2016, speaking at an event about the export of the 2014-15 soy and corn crops. To ease passage, he said the government will place gravel on the road.

Agriculture Minister Katia Abreu added that the pavement delays are due to failure to get environmental permits in Para state, home to large swathes of rainforest.

BR-163 is the main artery through Mato Grosso, which accounts for a quarter of total grain output in Brazil, and links to Santarem in Para state to the north where major grain exporters are building river terminals.

Cargill has operated there since 2003, using mostly river barges, and Bunge last year inaugurated a terminal slightly farther south at Itaituba.

In addition to putting gravel on unpaved roads, the government plans to expand parking lots to avoid long truck lines at the main port of Santos, Rodrigues said.

The government will also automate a truck scheduling system that helped ease congestion at Santos last year, he said.

Reporting for Reuters by Nestor Rabello in Brasilia; writing by Caroline Stauffer.

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