Strike action by Brazilian truck drivers on 1 February could be worse than in 2018 when national action over pay and conditions cut off essential supplies to major cities across the country, AgriCensus reported the president of one of Brazil’s truck unions as saying in local media.

The president of the National Association of Autonomous Transport (ANTB) Jose Roberto Stringasci had been quoted in a number of Brazilian media outlets as saying that the current protest over diesel prices was gathering support and could be bigger than in 2018.

As Brazil had few major railways, it was particularly reliant on truck transportation to move goods around the country, according to AgriCensus, and the previous strike had had a big impact, damaging the then government of Michel Temer.

The ANTB claimed to represent between 60-70% of Brazil’s transport, with the 1 February strike action supported by the national umbrella group the National Council for Road Freight Transport, AgriCensus said.

Any widespread, prolonged strike action could disrupt Brazil’s new soyabean crop, according to AgriCensus, which was expected to come to market in February and was already facing some concerns over delays.

While truckers had cited high diesel prices, which the ANTB said accounted for up to 60% of the cost of a journey, strike leaders were targeting the national oil company Petrobras, which sets the price at the pumps based on an import parity price policy, AgriCensus said.

Brazil was forecast to export 85M tonnes of soyabeans and 39M tonnes of corn in the 2020/21 marketing year, according to USDA data.