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335414

Trucker blockades in Brazil could hit ag exports, farm group says

By Ana Mano and Roberto Samora

SAO PAULO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Roadblocks in at least 12 Brazilian states by truckers who support outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro could affect agricultural exports in one of the world's top food producers, according to the head of a key state farm lobby.

Bolsonaro lost Sunday's election to leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but has yet to concede defeat to his fierce ideological rival.

His complete radio silence has raised concerns about the orderly handover of power, while also adding to doubts about how long the blockades could last.

Brazil's Federal Highway Police (PRF) said on Monday that truckers have partially or fully blocked roads in 12 states, up from the six states an independent truckers group had estimated earlier on Monday. Truckers are one of far-right leader Bolsonaro's key constituencies, and they have been known to cause economic chaos in Brazil when they shut down highways.

Santos and Paranagua ports, from where most of Brazil's grains are exported, told Reuters the protests have not affected cargo movement yet.

However, Normando Corral, president of farm group Famato, said the roadblocks in the top grains-growing state of Mato Grosso could disrupt agricultural shipments if they persist.

One of the state's main exports this time of year is Brazil's winter corn crop, which is planted after soybeans are harvested.

"It's too soon to say if it's going to interfere with the flow of production, because the blockades started yesterday," Corral said. "I don't know how long it will last."

Rota do Oeste, a toll road operator that administers an 850-km (530-mile) stretch of the BR 163 highway that cuts through Mato Grosso, said at 10.50am local time there were blockages in the regions of Nova Mutum, Sorriso, Sinop and Lucas do Rio Verde.

Evandro Lermen, a member of grain cooperative Coacen in the Brazilian 'soy capital' Sorriso, Mato Grosso, told Reuters corn shipments were not being disrupted by the protests.

He said trucks had not been loaded with corn over the weekend because of a Nov. 2 national holiday.

"We are not worried," he said, adding that shipping schedules showed no delays.

Rumo, a leading rail company that operates Latin America's biggest grain terminal in Rondonopolis, Mato Grosso, said none of its operations in Brazil had been affected so far.

A corn trader said it had no issues loading corn in the days before the election, adding that he was aware some cargos were stranded because of the protests, which he expected to end soon. (Reporting by Ana Mano, Roberto Samora, Alberto Alerigi and André Romani; Editing by Brad Haynes and Rosalba O'Brien)

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