May 4, 2015

Port strikes in Argentina threaten to disrupt world feed grains supply


Boat pilots and port workers in Rosario, Argentina, where most of the country's overseas-bound grains, oilseeds and derivatives are shipped from, threaten to continue their strike if a wage deal is not reached by evening of Monday (May 4).

Pay strikes by unions representing boat captains, stevedores and other workers needed to dock and load recently-harvested soy and corn have paralysed Rosario's port since Wednesday (April 29).

"All docking and loading services are shut down at every one of the 25 ports from the city of Rosario going north along the Parana River to Timbues," Reuters quoted Edgardo Quiroga, spokesman for the CGT umbrella labour organisation, as saying.

The strikes have disrupted delivery of Argentinian grains, especially corn, soy and soymeal to the rest of the world, putting upward pressure on world food prices. Argentina is the world's top exporter of soymeal and its No. 3 supplier of raw soybeans.

Rosario is an inland port on the Parana River in Argentina's province of Santa Fe. Itis located about 550km upstream from the Atlantic.

On Thursday, a day after the start of the port strikes, corn, soybean, and wheat futures in the US were all trading higher, according to on-line news reports.

A Rosario marketanalyst, Pablo Fraga said the massive strike could put Argentina's grains industry in a complete standstill.

"The strike is very serious. Yesterday evening (April 29), 800 trucks waited 12 hours outside one terminal without any movement. So, truckers got crazy and started breaking things, set on fire eight cars, etc… We don't know if next week things will get any better,"Fraga said,

A spokesman for the striking workers told the media that if a wage deal is not reached by Monday evening, the strike will continue for an indefinite period of time.  The labour groupsare negotiating with CIARA-CEC, Argentina's chamber of grains exporting and soy crushing companies.

The boat pilots or captains board cargo ships arriving in Rosario to guide them to their berths. The union representing the boat captains says the strike will continue until its wage demands are met. The Argentinian Coast Guard, however,has promised to step in should pilot captains continue with their strike.

Ships entering Rosario's port area are dropping anchor along the Parana River to wait out the work stoppage, reports from Rosario said.