Dec 15, 2017

Brazilian Army to keep BR-163 Passable this Rainy Season

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The heavy rains that fell last February in northern Brazil causing the closing of highway BR-163 for several weeks, caught highway officials by surprise. In order to avoid another similar embarrassing event, officials are taking steps to insure the highway remains open this rain season.

The highway is under the authority of the National Department of Infrastructure and Transportation (Dnit) who is working with the Brazilian Army who is responsible for the actual construction of the highway. Within the state of Para, BR-163 stretches for 710 kilometers from the border with Mato Grosso to the Port of Miritituba on the Tapajos River. There are two sections of the highway that have not been paved, one of 58 kilometers and the other of 30 kilometers.

Actual construction has stopped for the rainy season and it won't resume until next April. Work on the two unpaved sections is expected to be completed in 2018. In the meantime, efforts are being directed to insure the highway stays passable during the rainy season, which runs from December to March.

The Brazilian Army has already done preliminary drainage work to keep the unpaved roadbed from turning into a giant mud hole similar to last February. They have also positioned men and equipment at strategic points along the road to rapidly respond to any problems. The problem last February was that the men and equipment had to be brought in from distant locations once huge traffic jams had already occurred.

At one point, there were an estimated 5,000 tucks stuck on the highway. The Brazilian Airforce had to bring in helicopters to supply the truckers and communities along the highway with emergency supplies of food, water, fuel, etc.

The plan this year is to put in place a system of "Stop and Go" where the truck traffic can proceed single file in alternate directions, if need be, through the worst sections.

The Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Processors (Abiove) in conjunction with the international grain companies are urging Dnit to avoid a repeat of last year when grain terminals on the Amazon River ran out of grain supplies due to the highway being closed for several weeks. The problem caused millions of dollars of losses due to broken contracts and the need to reroute vessels to other Brazilian ports.

The amount of grain heading north along the highway is expected to increase next year when the soybean harvest gets underway in Mato Grosso in January. Last year, there were approximately 800 trucks per day transporting soybeans and corn north to Amazon ports.

The ports on the Amazon River and along the northeastern Atlantic Coast of Brazil are part of what is called the "Northern Arc" of ports in Brazil. Many of these ports are being expanded to handle an ever increasing amount of grain being shipped out of northern Brazil. A railroad is also being planned from Mato Grosso to the Port of Miritituba, but the completion of that railroad is still years away. In the meantime, highway BR-163 is the only major highway heading north and completion of this paving project can't come soon enough for farmers, truckers, grain companies, and exporters.