Ships are moored at a port on the Parana River during Argentina's main grains port workers' unions wage strike, in Santa Fe, Argentina, December 21 2020. Picture: REUTERS
Ships are moored at a port on the Parana River during Argentina's main grains port workers' unions wage strike, in Santa Fe, Argentina, December 21 2020. Picture: REUTERS

Buenos Aires — A strike that has snarled Argentina’s soybean industry will continue during the Christmas holidays, further delaying 170 ships waiting outside ports.

Soybean crushers at export plants agreed to extend a strike over wages during the Christmas season, according to a statement on the website of union group Federacion Aceitera. The strike, which has been going on for 15 days, has delayed shipments from the world’s top exporter of soy products, sending Chicago futures rallying.

There are more than 170 ships waiting to load and unload at Argentina’s Bahia Blanca, Necochea-Quequen and Gran Rosario ports, Andres Alcaraz, a communications manager at export group Ciara-Cec, said on Wednesday. The strikes have caused delays to $1.7bn worth of exports in additions to costs directly related with the action such as demurrage, he said.

The Argentinian strike has fuelled soybean supply concerns at a time of vigorous global demand, sending prices of the oilseed above $12 a bushel, the highest in six years. Soybean oil prices also reached the highest level since 2014, while meal futures are at a four-year high.

Prices have gained on speculation traders will need to turn to American supplies to meet their contract needs. Brazil has sold most of its soybeans to China and therefore cannot make up for the shortfall in Argentina. Workers will meet to discuss their demands again on Thursday.

Bunge declined to comment on how it is meeting its demand from customers, while Cofco International could not  immediately comment the matter. Archer-Daniels-Midland and Cargill did not respond to requests seeking comment.

The Argentinian strikes could at some point affect wheat supplies to Brazil, which imports the majority of its needs from its neighbour. For now, Brazilian millers are well supplied as the nation has just reaped its domestic crop and only a few mills import Argentinian wheat at this time of the year, according to Rubens Barbosa, head of industry group Abitrigo.

“If the strike isn’t solved in the coming weeks, some mills could be affected,” Barbosa said.

Brazil can also import 750,000 tonnes of wheat free of duty from nations outside the Mercosur bloc, he said. The alternatives to Argentina's grain are usually the US, Russia and Canada.

Bloomberg

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