Port Strikes Leave Grain Ships Halted and 12 Closed Ports in South America

Two leading wheat export terminals have halted shipments due to wage protests by the Argentine workers.

Port workers have suspended tugboat services in Bahia Blanca and Quequen, south of the province Buenos Aires, paralyzing two major soy processing terminals in Rosario.

Union leader Omar Suarez says in addition to higher wages, the workers wish the exporters to utilize a logistics company for hiring its members. The grain exporters have agreed to negotiate with the workers, even though it is months ahead of traditional negotiations, as one of the biggest agricultural hubs in the world needs to get back to business, especially after the 2010/11 harvest was completed last month.

The Argentine port strikes have an effect on soy trade worldwide. Argentina is the no. 1 soy meal and soy oil exporter, the no. 3 soybean exporter, and a crucial supplier of wheat and corn. 80% of this soy is produced around Rosario where strikes are taking place. Three-quarters of the agricultural exports are shipping from river ports around Rosario and San Lorenzo nearby.

Although this effect is still relatively limited, 12 ports lining the banks near San Lorenzo have been shut down, as well as port activity being at its lowest point of the year.