The company, which is the largest Brazilian papaya importer into North America, says the drivers are protesting diesel prices, which have been continuously rising since June 2017.
Influenced by a rising dollar, international oil prices, and instability in oil producing countries, Brazil’s government made several adjustments last week that have angered drivers, who took to the streets on Monday and have been protesting since.
Trucks are lining many major highways throughout the country, with 200 blockades being reported so far in 24 of the country’s 27 states, HLB said.
Drivers block the roads with burning tires and tree limbs, restricting passage to many airports.
Brazilian papayas imported into the U.S. are all flown by air from airports in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where the bulk of the blocked roads is, the company said.
“It is uncertain when the strikes will be lifted. Our last shipment of Brazilian Papayas was on Monday and the situation is getting worse. Now gas stations are running out of fuel and soon transportation might get paralyzed,” said Melissa Hartmann de Barros, HLB Specialties’ communications director.
According to local reports, last week the Brent oil barrel traded on the London Stock Exchange at US$80, compared to US$30 in the beginning of 2016.
The prices are being pushed by uncertainties in two major producing countries, Iran, which was again targeted by U.S. sanctions, and Venezuela, plunged into a political and economic crisis.
HLB Specialties and its sister company HLB Tropical Food GmbH in Germany, are known in the produce industry for being pioneers in the papaya business.
In the early 1990s HLB was responsible for introducing Formosa papayas to Europe and most recently for being the only company to grow and import organic Formosa papayas into North America on a commercial scale.