July 22, 2019 / 9:21 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 4-Brazil postpones new road freight price rules through Wednesday

(Adds official suspension of pricing rules by regulatory agency)

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Alberto Alerigi

BRASÍLIA/SAO PAULO, July 22 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government has postponed new road freight pricing rules through Wednesday as it seeks to avoid repetition of a truckers strike that crippled Brazil’s roads last year, hampering delivery of everything from fuel to grains.

The postponement, decided on Monday by transportation regulatory agency ANTT, was expected to last until the government and truck drivers meet and “build consensus” on a new table of road freight values, Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio Freitas told Reuters via text message.

A meeting between truckers and the minister was scheduled for Wednesday, ministry officials said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro told reporters on Monday that Freitas “has full autonomy to negotiate with truckers.”

Last August, then-President Michel Temer signed into law a bill authorizing the government to set minimum truck freight prices, a move that drew criticism from grain traders and food processors.

The law, seen as a reinstatement of price controls that Brazil abolished in the 1990s, requires truck freight prices to be equal to, or above, minimum prices set by the regulatory agency.

On Monday, truckers were posting about protests on social media in states such as Paraiba, Mato Grosso, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. A potential strike would affect the transportation of the midyear grain crop currently being harvested.

A truckers’ union in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest, richest state, said it was recommending that truckers wait for results of Wednesday’s meeting with the government, the same tack taken by another truckers union in Minas Gerais. (Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; writing by Ana Mano; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

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