As bad as roads have been for the Brazilian Amazon, a new rail system serving the soy industry could make things far worse.
The so-called Grainrail — the dream of giant transnational grain traders ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, the Brazilian soy trader Amaggi, and their domestic government and business allies — is likely to move ahead following the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s recent presidential election.
Brazil’s president-elect has promised aggressive development of the region at the expense of the environment — and Grainrail appears to be the type of mega-project that will be favored.
The rail, monopolized by the grain traders, will substantially lower transport costs of soy grown in Mato Grosso state.
This is especially true as the world’s leading soy consumer, China, turns to Brazil to avoid the tariffs erected by the United States under President Donald Trump.
Currently, agribusinesses send their soy on trucks to an Amazonian-basin river port, along a mud-bogged highway that destroys the trucks and slows down trade.
A railway will eliminate all that — but it will also put thousands of grain truckers out of work and dry up commercial activity along the road corridor they use.
Grainrail, if constructed, will also threaten three Indigenous groups and 14 protected areas, as forest and savanna ecosystems are destroyed.