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ECONOMY | 15-04-2022 00:37

Haulage strike that paralysed Argentina's farming exports lifted

Four-day strike by Argentine grain transporters, demanding higher freight rates in the face of rising diesel prices due to war in Ukraine, had paralysed local farming exports.

A four-day strike by Argentine grain transporters, demanding higher freight rates in the face of rising diesel prices due to war in Ukraine, was finally lifted late Thursday night.

The breakthrough came after talks between transporters and agricultural producers had broken down the previous day. But after four hours of negotiations involving government officials and an agreement to sit down again in March, transporters agreed to a 20 percent hike in tariffs and said they would lift the strike.

The revolt paralysed local farming exports and caused considerable financial damage, industry sources said.

Thousands of trucks that haul grain and its derivatives have been parked along the side of the road for days, stopping shipments from Argentina, the world's largest exporter of soybean flour and oil, and one of the main suppliers of wheat, soybean and corn.

"The entire agricultural export complex is paralysed. The Argentine economy cannot afford this luxury," Gustavo Idigoras, the president of the Ciara-CEG oil and grain exporters chamber, said in a statement issued Thursday before talks concluded.

Haulage companies are unhappy with the amount they are being paid to transport grain since their fuel costs have shot up in recent months due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Agricultural businesses are denying the real price of diesel that haulage companies are paying," said the Argentine Haulage Federation FETRA, which organised the strike. It called for a major increase in freight rates from agricultural employers.

"With this cost, we have to stop because we cannot work anymore," said Ariel Juárez, a FETRA representative parked along a road near the city of Victoria, 300 kilometres (180 miles) north of the capital.

"The strike is total and absolute," said Edgardo Maurenzi, another hauler.

The official price of diesel in gas stations is 110 pesos (US$0.93) per litre, but FETRA says truckers are being charged 191 pesos (US$1.60) due to shortages.

The crisis has erupted in the middle of the 2021-2022 harvest for the farming industry.

"The strike is causing losses of about US$100 million a day. About 200 tons [of produce] have been left unloaded at port terminals. We have 50 boats waiting," said Idigoras on Thursday.

Whereas there are normally 3,000 to 4,000 trucks a day arriving at Argentina's ports, currently there are only around a dozen, he said.

Idigoras also said there was not enough diesel for tractors to harvest the grain in fields.

Argentina's grain industry was worth US$35 billion in 2021.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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