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Brazil protests escalate, disrupting fuel, grain and meat industries

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Demonstrators protesting Brazil's election results have disrupted fuel distribution and meat production, as well as the country's ability to send grains to port, companies and authorities said on Tuesday.

Blockades were first reported on Sunday amid spreading demonstrations by truckers and other supporters of outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, challenging his narrow election loss to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Protesters blocked the main access road to the important grain export port of Paranagua for a second day on Tuesday, hobbling shipping from one of the world's top food producers.

Meanwhile, poultry and pork processors may have to halt slaughtering at some sites as early as Wednesday, a source said.

Meat processing plants "can maintain three to four days of slaughter, depending on animals in stock, and after that no longer," said the source.

In Santa Catarina, one of the hardest hit by the protests, there were disruptions to deliveries of animals for slaughter and shipment of products to markets, a local hog growers lobby said.

Truckers, one of Bolsonaro's key constituencies, benefited from his policies to lower fuel prices and have previously disrupted the Brazilian economy by shutting highways in recent years.

Some of them have called for military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in power. The president gave a brief statement Tuesday afternoon, the first since the Sunday vote, and said the protests reflected dissatisfaction with the electoral process.

He did not concede defeat, but his chief of staff said their team would begin the process of transition to a Lula government, which is set to begin on Jan. 1.

Fuel distribution was in "a critical situation," said Valeria Lima, downstream director at energy lobby IBP, adding that she believed the government should form a crisis committee to tackle the protesters.

The IBP said there was a high risk of fuel shortages in Santa Catarina and Parana, and potential disruptions in Sao Paulo, Brazil's richest state.

According to the federal highway police on early Tuesday afternoon, protesters were blocking highways partially or fully in about 200 locations, as part of the protests that have spread to 22 of Brazil's 27 states. They said another 330 roadblocks had been cleared.

Rumo, a leading rail company, told Reuters the protests had lowered the number of trucks at certain of its terminals, while there were some disruptions in sections of the railroad in Morretes, Parana, and in Joinville, Santa Catarina.

The company, which operates a large grain terminal in Rondonopolis, Mato Grosso, said all of its contracts are being fulfilled based on the volume of products stored in its warehouses and cargos in transit.

Mato Grosso, Brazil's biggest grain producer, was also among the most affected by the roadblocks that started after polls closed on Sunday, police data showed, with at least 25 blockades or partial blockades on Tuesday afternoon.

The port authority at Santos, Latin America's biggest port, reiterated in the afternoon things remained normal as protests had not disrupted its land operations.

(Reporting by Ana Mano, André Romani, Marta Nogueira and Nayara Figueiredo Editing by Alistair Bell and Rosalba O'Brien)

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