Argentina’s grain port strike ends after 20 days, exports to resume gradually

ARGENTINA-GRAINS

Argentina’s port and grain union workers have ended a 20-day strike after an agreement was reached Dec. 29 following government intervention, lifting a major work stoppage that left more than 150 grain ships stranded at the country’s ports.

The agreement was reached with oilseed and port worker unions at a meeting hosted by Argentina’s Ministry of Labor, ending a strike that has paralyzed port terminals and the country’s agriculture industry, Cámara de la Industria Aceitera de la República Argentina, or CIARA, said in a Dec. 29 statement.

Argentina is one of the world’s top soybean, corn and wheat suppliers, and the strike hampered grain trade flow out of the country, weighing on markets for the last few weeks and contributing, in part, to a global grain price rally.

Workers were demanding a wage raise, holding back cargo ships at a crucial time when the export season ramps up in Argentina. The country’s wheat marketing season begins in December.

“Each delayed ship has a [demurrage] cost of between $25,000 and $40,000 per day,” said Javier Mariscotti, an Argentina-based trader and director of the Rosario Stock Exchange.

More than 2.5 million mt of agriculture products were waiting to be shipped, he added.

Another Argentina-based analyst estimated the overall vessel demurrage cost at around $1.9 billion.

All the volume committed and not shipped in December will aim to be covered by January shipments, with some of those January volumes possibly being moved to February, the analyst said.

The volume of wheat waiting in the shipping lineups was around 1.4 million mt, he added.

In December 2019 Argentina exported 2.1 million mt of wheat,, more than 2 million mt of soybean products and around 1.9 mt of corn products, according to Argentinian government export data.

Brazilian millers, which buy most of their wheat requirements from Argentina, had expressed concerns over slower wheat flour production due to the strike, according to Elena Neroba, an analyst at trading company Maxigrain.

CIARA said the agreement with the unions calls for a 35% wage increase in 2020 and other bonus raises and wage revisions in 2021.

Source: Platts

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