Feb 13, 2018

BR-163 in Northern Brazil Reopened to Traffic (at least for now)

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

The traffic congestion on BR-163 in northern Brazil that caught all the press attention last week has been resolved, at least for the time being. The biggest problem was a 30 kilometer section that was unpaved and especially a 200 meter steep grade that was too slick for the trucks after three days of constant heavy rain.

The president of the Soybean and Corn Producers Association of Mato Grosso (Aprosoja) toured the area with the director of the National Department of Infrastructure and Transportation (Dnit) and military officials in charge of the highway and he emphasized to them just how important it was to reopen the highway for trucks carrying soybeans to northern ports in Brazil.

The combination of dryer weather and the additional prodding resulted in the Brazilian Army trucking in enough gravel to resolve the slick conditions, which allowed trucks to proceed once again north. The Brazilian army, which is responsible for building the highway, has now promised to bring in enough gravel on the remainder of the 30 kilometers that are unpaved to prevent a problem in the future. It remains to be seen if that will work.

The worst section of the highway has been taken over by the Brazilian Army after the original company that won the bid to construct the highway went bankrupt. The total project may get done in 2018 or in 2019 no one knows for sure.

Highway BR-163 is the main highway linking central Mato Grosso with the ports on the Amazon River. The director of the Pro Logistic Movement estimates that BR-163 will carry 11 million tons of soybeans and corn north to the Amazon River. In far western Mato Grosso, highway BR-364 is expected to transport 6 million tons of grain to ports much further upstream on the Amazon River. In far eastern Mato Grosso, highway BR-158 is expected to transport 4 million tons of grain to ports at the mouth of the Amazon River.

There are only three highways from central Brazil to the Amazon River - one straight north from central Mato Grosso (BR-163), one up the west side of Brazil (BR-364), and one in east-central Brazil (BR-158). All three of these highways are 2-lane roads that can be full of potholes.

It is hard to explain how big central Brazil is and how limited is the surface transportation. It might be similar to hauling grain from Denver to the Mississippi River. One 2-lane road would go from Denver to Minneapolis/St. Paul. A second 2-lane road would go from Denver to St. Louis. And a third 2-lane road would go from Denver to New Orleans. And by the way, all three of those highways would be toll roads, just like they are in Brazil.