December 8, 2018 / 4:23 AM / 3 days ago

Exclusive: Brazil's Bolsonaro brokering deal to end trucker, farmer feud

BRASÍLIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s next government is working to strike a deal between farmers and truckers over minimum freight prices by revising the policy, rather than throwing it out as many have demanded, the country’s future infrastructure minister said on Friday.

Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro reacts as he speaks to media at the Army Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

The minimum freight rates were imposed as part of a deal to end a truckers strike in May that crippled the countries roadways, preventing food and other essential items from making it to market.

Farmers and commodities traders have complained that the policy raises their costs at a time when profit margins in the business are already falling.

“At first, we are going to deal with the minimum freight table with care. We plan to revise the prices, but we are going to encourage the market to use it,” said Tarcisio Freitas, the future infrastructure minister under President-elect Jair Bolsonaro.

Freitas said the transition team is speaking with all parties involved in the truck freight issue with the aim of resolving it in the first month of the new government in January.

The minimum truck freight table was set by the current government of President Michel Temer as one of the measures to end a truckers nation-wide strike that began over rising diesel prices.

Farm groups have gone to courts trying to knock it down. On Thursday, Brazil’s Supreme Court granted an injunction to prevent the government from fining companies that do not comply with the minimum freight rates.

The future minister said he hopes that with an expected improvement of the economy, demand for goods transportation will rise and improve profitability for truckers, taking off the financial pressure they were under earlier this year.

Bolsonaro was popular among truckers, with many placing stickers for the then-candidate on their vehicles.

But the President-elect also got strong backing from farmers, placing his government in a difficult situation regarding the freight issue.

Most transportation of goods is done by roads in Brazil, giving truckers major bargaining power.

Additional reporting and writing by Marcelo Teixeira; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft

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