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November 10, 2015

Independent Truck Drivers in Brazil on Strike, Blocking Highways

On Monday, November 9th, the independent truck drivers in Brazil launched a nationwide strike by blocking many of the major highways in the country. The work stoppage is being organized by the National Transport Command (CNT) through social media. In addition to economic demands such as lower diesel fuel prices and minimum freight rates, another goal of the work stoppage is the impeachment of President Rousseff. The drivers feel that the president did not follow through on promises she and her administration made at the end of the previous strike in March.

As of Monday afternoon, truckers are reported to have blocked at least 70 highways in eleven states all across Brazil. The strike is set for an indeterminate length of time.

The strikers are independent drivers and most of the organized truck driver organizations in Brazil are not supporting this work stoppage. For example, the president of the Federation of Cargo Transporting Companies in the State of Parana was quoted as saying "We understand the dissatisfaction with the government in general, but that is not a reason to invade the highways at a time when we have to work." It remains to be seen how effective this work stoppage will be. The striking drivers claim there are one million independent truck drivers in Brazil.

The agricultural sector is very concerned that a prolonged strike could make the already bad economic situation in Brazil even worse. Producers of perishable products such as milk, vegetables, animals, etc. are especially concerned because they suffered financially from a previous truck driver strike in March. Back in March, livestock producers could not get feed delivered to their farms, meat processing facilities had to shut down due to a lack of animals, and meat exporters could not get their products to export facilities. The livestock industry estimates that they lost R$ 700 million during the previous strike.

The livestock sector is also very concerned about the potential for the federal inspectors resuming their strike (see later article) during the critical month of November when Russia and eastern European countries purchase large amounts of Brazilian poultry and pork in order for it to arrive before the ports close for the winter. They need to have the products shipped by November 20th or no later than the end of the month. On a daily basis, Brazil exports 15,000 tons of poultry and 2,700 tons of pork.