“To safeguard food security, exports of soybeans, sugar, soy oil, and beef are temporarily suspended,” according to an official announcement from Bolivia’s Minister of Productive Development, Néstor Huanca.
“The measure has been in effect since midnight, Thursday, October 27, and will continue until normal supply conditions are restored for the entire Bolivian population,” said the minister criticizing the sales strike that has been taking place in the state of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which is demanding a new Demographic Census in 2023, to better share central government resources.
The minister has blamed the organizations behind the strike for the stoppage of the productive sector and the increasing threat to food security in Bolivia.
“They are responsible for the multimillion-dollar damage and losses endured by Santa Cruz and the national productive apparatus,” Huanca said at a press conference. “We are taking preventive measures,” he said in an interview with Unitel.
The Minister of Productive Development invited civic leaders and regional authorities in Santa Cruz to “reflect” and initiate dialogue to resume food production and distribution on a regular and unrestricted basis.
The protest in the Santa Cruz de la Sierra department also affects the border region with the Brazilian city of Corumbá. The international crossing between the two countries has been closed since Saturday, and only on foot traffic is allowed. There are also blocking points on stretches of the bi-oceanic road corridor up to Santa Cruz, 650 km from the border with the municipality of Corumba.
The import and export sector is one of the most affected. According to the president of Setlog Pantanal (Union of Cargo Transport and Logistics Companies), Lourival Vieira Costa Júnior, on average, a stopped truck results in a loss of R$5 thousand (approx US$ 1,000 a day).
“This is true not only for trucks; the industry loses money, importers lose money, freighters, the dry port [all lose money]. Imagine having 300 trucks standing idly in Coroumba, the average number of vehicles that travel daily loaded with exports and imports. That would create a loss of 1.5 million dollars daily,” explained Lourival to the Diário Corumbaense news agency.
Regarding the damage to exports and imports, the head of Customs at the Federal Revenue Service of Corumbá, Erivelto Mousés Torrico Alencar, explains: “The daily value of goods leaving Brazil for Bolivia is R$ 41 million, while goods leaving Bolivia for Brazil is R$ 4 million. In other words, the border closure costs both countries a significant sum. Bilateral trade in the Bolivia/Brazil area has reached 2 billion Reais in the year to date, but with a loss of 235 million Reais estimated in the last five days.”
Around 8,000 passenger vehicles pass through the border every day, and approximately 600 to 800 cargo vehicles cross the international line between Corumbá and Bolivia.
The conflict between Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the richest and most productive region in Bolivia, and the central government is that according to a census implemented by government, shared funds, based on population and production, are geared mostly to those regions supportive of the current ruling coalition. Santa Cruz which responds to the opposition complains it has been deliberately ignored or let down in the sharing, because its demographics and production are considered in the bottom quarter of the list of regions.
Those regions pro government are privileged and receive extra funds, in spite of lesser demographics and production indexes.