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Road rage.

A booming economy is pounding Brazil's highways, logistics companies say. The roads are crumbling under the weight of trucks carrying grains, soy and other commodities to the ports, where they are shipped to red-hot economies in Asia, such as China.

If the country wants to keep growing, it had better start paving. Three quarters of the 75.000-kilometer network of paved roads are not fit for transportation, according to a survey of the transportation lobby National Transport Confederation (CNT). More than half are only good for a bumpy ride, and almost half have no emergency lanes. In a country where more than 60% of cargo moves by trucks, the highway grid continues to deteriorate from lack of investment.

"The terrible state of the network is the cause of hundreds of deaths every year and seriously limits the country's growth potential,' says Clesio Andrade, CNT president. "There is no way Brazil's [economy] can grow 4% or 5% in the medium term with such infrastructure," says Andrade, who is also the vice governor of Minas Gerais state. Some highways have been privatized, where users are subject to hefty tolls. Even so, more than a fifth of privately managed highways are inadequate, according to the CNT.

The problem is not new, but export demand is suddenly setting off alarms. "The distribution model has remained unchanged for almost 20 years," says Jose Ribamar Miranda Dias, vice president of the National Shippers' Association. The industrial group, which includes steel companies Gerdau and CSN as well as the agribusiness giant Bunge, has called for public, emergency investments of US$1.50 billion in highway infrastructure by the end of 2005. "If this is not done, we are facing a logistics dead end. Our roads, which are already a torture, cannot bear the excess burden, and railways cannot yet respond to growing demand," says Dias. "We are on the verge of collapse--and it may be sudden."
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Title Annotation:National Transport Confederation
Author:Ogier, Thierry
Publication:Latin Trade
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:319
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