UPDATE 3-Truck strike hits Brazil fuel supplies, soy exports
(Adds details from fuel distributors, presidential spokesman)
By Gustavo Bonato
SINOP, Brazil Feb 24 (Reuters) - Brazilian truck drivers protesting high fuel prices for a seventh day on Tuesday interrupted supplies of diesel and raw materials across the country and threatened to hold up grains exports at ports in the middle of a record harvest.
Demonstrations that began as isolated protests have spread to at least 10 states, intensifying despite government threats of heavy fines for truckers blocking roads.
President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting, hoping to defuse the strikes, which threaten the agricultural exports Brazil needs to close a trade deficit and avoid a deeper economic downturn.
The government said it was prepared to open talks with the trucking sector over the extension of loan terms and the setting of freight rates but had no plans to lower diesel prices, Presidential Spokesman Miguel Rossetto said Tuesday evening.
Highway operator Ecovias said truckers had blocked off access to part of the Port of Santos, the largest port in the world's biggest soy exporter. Railway operator America Latina Logistica SA said the strike was delaying shipments.
The strike has led to a shortage of diesel fuel in parts of Brazil's bountiful center-west grains belt. Some farmers have temporarily halted soy harvesting machinery for lack of fuel.
"We could end up losing some of the harvest," Antonio Galvan, president of the Sinop Farmers Union in top soybean producing state of Mato Grosso, told Reuters. "Without diesel, you can't do anything." Continuación...