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Biggest Soy Exporters Breathe Relief as Union Ends 29-Day Strike

Jonathan Gilbert
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Exporters in Argentina, the world’s biggest supplier of soy products, breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday as grain inspectors and tugboat pilots ended lengthy strikes, kick-starting port operations after weeks of snarled shipments.

“Everything is getting back to normal after, in some cases, nearly two months of protests,” Guillermo Wade, manager of port group CAPyM, said from Rosario. While some other maritime workers continue pay disputes, that won’t be a problem for exporters because naval police will fill in, he said.

Grain inspectors had been picketing at port entrances as they protested over pay, slowing shipments among powerhouse agricultural traders like Cargill Inc. and Bunge Ltd. and spurring futures markets to multiyear highs. Argentina is the largest exporter of soy meal, which goes into livestock feed, and soy oil used in cooking and biofuels.

The inspectors’ union, Urgara, agreed to retroactive wage increases for 2020, as well as another 13% rise for January through June and a bonus of nearly $2,000 to be paid in installments. Tugboat operators, who dock ships, also struck a deal for salary hikes. Inflation in Argentina is expected to climb this year to 50%, which the government is attempting to counter by applying food protectionist policies.

Read More: Return to Food Protectionism Is Riling Farmers in Argentina

A three-week strike by soybean processors, also over pay, ended Dec. 29, taming the rally in soy meal and oil futures. At their height, the combined strikes affected more than 160 ships. Today that number is lower, though it’s difficult to be precise because congestion is delaying cargo-loading, according to Buenos Aires-based shipping agency NABSA.

Trade unions in Argentina remain strong because of the Peronist political movement, which took back power last year.

Soy meal futures in Chicago fell 1.4% on Thursday after touching a six-year high on Wednesday.

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