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February 2, 2018

Traffic Problems develop again on BR-163 in Northern Brazil

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

Recent heavy rains in northern Brazil are leading to some of the same problems along highway BR-163 that occurred last year at about this same time of the year. Long line of trucks are forming again along the unpaved portion of the highway due to mud holes and slick conditions.

Highway BR-163 goes from Mato Grosso northward to the Amazon River port city of Santarem. Within the state of Para, there are still 180 kilometers that have not been asphalted and that is the source of problems once again. Some of the unasphalted areas are in a mountainous region and the heavy rains have made the clay roadbed so slick that trucks are unable to move up the steep grades.

The highway is under the authority of the Federal Highway Police (PRF) and the Brazilian Army, which is in charge of asphalting the highway. On Wednesday of this week, the Highway Police temporarily closed the highway as heavy machinery had to pull 20 trucks up a steep grade.

Unfortunately, there is more heavy rain in the forecast, but it remains to be seen if the situation gets worse or not. It is not expected to be as bad as last year when thousands of trucks were stuck in a 50 kilometer traffic jam for as long as 1-2 weeks.

This year, the Brazilian Army has prepositioned men and equipment along the unasphalted sections to deal with any problems that may develop. The problems last year caught everyone by surprise and it took a while before heavy machinery could be brought in to resolve the issues. Work on asphalting the highway has been suspended during the rainy season and it is set to resume in April. The entire highway is scheduled to be asphalted by the end of 2018.

BR-163 links the important grain producing state of Mato Grosso with the Northern Arc of ports in Brazil. It is cheaper to move grain from most of Mato Grosso northward to the Amazon River than to ports in southeastern Brazil.