Brazil's Rousseff promises auction of key soy road this year
SAO PAULO, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday said an auction for an essential stretch of road for soy and corn exports through Mato Grosso state will happen this year. The new stretch, connecting the region with new river ports northward, is still being paved, but will be auctioned to bidders interested in running and maintaining the road. Another leg of the road, the BR-163, was awarded to local engineering firm Odebrecht Transport in a competitive auction on Nov. 27. The auction was significant because Rousseff's government has struggled for years to attract private investment in infrastructure projects. The road runs into Para state to the port of Miritituba, where Bunge plans to open a terminal next month. From there it continues northward, to a terminal run by Cargill in Santarem. Rousseff said the end of work on the road is "really very close" in an interview with a local radio station in Mato Grosso, where she held a meeting with farmers on Tuesday. Cargill, Bunge and ADM all plan to increase exports through the northern route to about 3 million tonnes this year as they seek alternatives to the crowded, distant ports on the southeast coast. "We will award, it is important to say, the stretch of the BR-163 between Sinop, in Mato Grosso, and the port of Miritituba, in Para," Rousseff said. "We have already had a show of interest," she added. Brazil is the world's top soybean exporter and the size of its crop is approaching that of the United States even though few new ports or terminals have been built in recent years. (Reporting by Eduardo Simões; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; editing by Sofina Mira-Reid)
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