Oct 03, 2022

Mato Grosso to Upgrade BR-163, Brazil's "Soybean Highway"

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

Highway BR-163 in the state of Mato Grosso is arguably the most important highway in Brazil as far as agriculture is concerned. It runs north to south across the entire state of Mato Grosso and it is used to transport grain to northern ports on the Amazon River and to rail terminals in the southern part of the state, which connects the state to the Port of Santos in southeastern Brazil. Most of the highway is currently 2-lanes and it was supposed to be upgraded to a 4-lane limited access highway years ago.

The problem has been that the contractor that won the right to expand the highway, Rota do Oeste, is a subsidiary of Odebrecht Transport which has declared bankruptcy and has indicated that they no longer have the resources to complete the project. The company also stands accused of multiple bribery scandals in their worldwide construction business. There has been a tug-of-war for years between the company and the Brazilian Justice Department which has been trying to cancel their contract.

It looks like that may finally happen. Last week, the State of Mato Grosso moved one step closer to assuming control of the project to upgrade the highway. The Brazilian National Land Transportation Agency (ANTT) and the company have finally agreed to transferring the contract to the State of Mato Grosso. The last remaining hurdle is to negotiate the debts that the company owes to the banks that originally financed the project. The state has agreed to invest R$ 1.2 billion to finish the project and it already has R$ 300 million on hand.

The original contract was issued in 2014 and the entire project was scheduled to be completed in 2018. To date, only 120 of the 800 kilometers of BR-163 within the state of Mato Grosso has been expanded to a 4-lane limited access highway. Once the final agreement is in place, the State of Mato Grosso has indicated that it would take two years to complete the upgrade.

BR-163 was turned into a toll road at the start of the project and tolls have been collected for nearly a decade, but the only upgrade on most of the highway has been the installation of toll plazas. Everyone in the state of Mato Grosso have been asking for this upgrade for decades and now maybe, it might come to fruition.