Cuiaba, with Santarem, and which is in the process of being
paved, for numerous new terminals. Up to 7mt of grains will
soon be using this route.
To cope with the heavy traffic, it is planned to build a second
carriageway on the BR 163 road, as well as to double the
thickness of its asphalt. The poor quality of much of the
60,000km of paved roads in Brazil hinders the use of modern
seven or eight axle trucks, by slowing their speed and increasing
the cost of maintenance, particularly of tyres and suspensions.
Despite the fact that a far higher proportion of the soya and
maize grown in Brazil will leave from ports in the north and
north east from now on, the ports in the south, notably Santos
and Paranagua, do not anticipate much less will be shipped from
Seventy per cent of the 7.6 mt of soya beans, and the 5.1mt
of meal now shipped annually from Paranagua, for example, is
grown in the nearby state of Parana, and only 18% of that
shipped arrives by truck from Mato Grosso. Paranagua is also
home to numerous fertilizer blending plants, and with no
likelihood of significantly more of the 30mt of fertilizer now
used in Brazil being produced in the country, taking this fertilizer
north to where it is needed, means there is a return cargo for
the trucks delivering soya at the port.
Ambitious plans are periodically published with great fanfare
for the building and expansion of Brazil’s rail network.
These include the completion of the notorious 2,500km-long
‘North–South’ line construction of which began 30 years ago, to
run from close to the Carajas mines, south to Sao Paulo state,
but which is still only operational for half its length.
Poor management and weak supervision, means that although
much of the track bed has been laid, embankments have
collapsed, rails have been stolen, and poor-quality sleepers have
This sad story is now being repeated on two equally
ambitious 2,000km lines which will eventually link ports on
Brazil’s atlantic seaboard with the centre of the country.
Running directly west, the lines will eventually allow grains, iron
ore from new mines, oil products and fertilizer to be carried to
ports or taken inland. A start was made almost ten years ago on
the two lines, but work has now ground to a halt because of lack
of funds or planning restrictions, notably that key wayleaves have
not been negotiated.
Proposals have also been made more recently by politicians
to build other new lines in the soya producing area, often to run
parallel with roads which have themselves not yet been finished.
This confusion just serves to draw attention to the failure of
successive Brazilian administrations to complete projects which
had been started, and favour new ones instead.
Until 25 years ago, the rails needed for Brazil’s 30,000km
network were made at local steel mills, most by the National
Steel Company, the CSN. But due to the lack of demand, CSN
ceased making rails, which have been replaced by imports, most
Despite frequent requests from the government, the CSN
has refused to start making rails again. The company does not
feel that demand will be strong enough to allow it to get a
return from such an investment. In theory, large quantities of
rails will be needed to keep the existing 30,000km of track up to
standard, and to equip the 5,000km or so of new track which
the government wants to see built. The reluctance clearly
indicates that one interested party at least, has little faith in the
plans for rail coming to fruition in the near future.