Brazil truckers invoke memory of 2018 amid Feb 1 strike action

14 Jan 2021 | Tim Worledge

The president of one of Brazil’s truck unions has warned in local media that upcoming strike action, scheduled for February 1, could be worse than in 2018 when national action over pay and conditions cut off essential supplies to major cities across the country.

The president of the National Association of Autonomous Transport (ANTB) Jose Roberto Stringasci was quoted in a number of Brazilian media outlets warning that the protest over rising diesel prices is gathering support and could be bigger than 2018.

With few major railways, Brazil is particularly reliant upon truck transportation to move goods around the country, with the previous truck strike quickly bringing the country to its knees, damaging the then government of Michel Temer.

The ANTB claims to represent between 60-70% of Brazil’s transport, with the February 1 strike action supported by the national umbrella group the National Council for Road Freight Transport.

Any widespread, prolonged strike action could spell catastrophe for Brazil’s new crop soybean production, which is expected to come to market in February and is already facing some concerns over delays.

Traders in China, the world’s biggest soybean importer, have already eyed delayed planting and poor weather during the crop’s development and extended buying of US beans during a period where Brazil typically dominates.

With the country likely to host another huge soybean crop, and a heavy export programme to China already anticipated, any disruption to logistics could stoke further supply fears and encourage additional buying from US Gulf and Pacific Northwest hubs.

That in turn could lend additional support to soybean futures that have already set multi-year highs in recent days.

Any strike action could also prove to be another headache for Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro, a former military officer who capitalised on his predecessor’s struggle to resolve the trucker issue.

While truckers are citing high diesel prices, which the ANTB say account for up to 60% of the cost of the journey, strike leaders are targeting the national oil company, Petrobras, which sets the price at the pumps based on an import parity price policy.

Brazil is expected to export 85 million mt of soybeans and 39 million mt of corn in the 2020/21 marketing year, according to USDA data.