Thousands of soy trucks stranded on swamped Amazon highway in Brazil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - About 3,000 trucks carrying soy beans are backed up on a major road to port through the Amazon region that has become impassible due to swamps caused by heavy rainfall, highway police said on Wednesday.

Trucks have become bogged down on an unpaved section of the BR-163 highway in southern Pará state, running up loses of $400,000 a day for grain traders moving soy from Mato Grosso to northern ports, the main lobby for Brazil’s soy business said.

Some vehicles have been pulled through with the help of heavy earthmoving equipment, but the bulk of the trucks cannot advance, according to the highway police in Santarém in Pará.

“Things are still critical. Work on the road has improved the situation somewhat, but the rain really complicates the work,” highway police officer Bruno Bittencourt told Reuters.

Weather permitting, the national highway department DNIT expects to free the traffic flow of loaded trucks heading north on BR-163 by Friday with the help of Army engineers.

Southbound traffic heading for Mato Grosso has been moving forward since Tuesday on the swamped 37 km (23 mile) section, the DNIT said in a statement.

Thomson Reuters’ Agriculture Weather Dashboard, however, forecast continued heavy rainfall in the area for the next two weeks.

The BR-163 highway, which the government says will be fully paved in Para state by next year, is a vital route for shipping out Mato Grosso soy through port terminals on the Tapajós River in Itaituba, in the Miritituba district.

Major grain companies Cargill, Bunge and Hidrovias do Brasil have terminals that load barges on the river for transshipment in ports down river near Belém.

But no soy has arrived in Miritituba since Feb. 18, according to Daniel Furlan Amaral, manager of Abiove, the lobby for companies that export and process soy in Brazil.

The trading companies declined to comment on the holdup.

Reporting by Gustavo Bonato; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Alistair Bell