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By Jorge Otaola
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Argentina’s influential chamber of soyoil manufacturers and exporters on Sunday spiced up an offer to striking workers, seeking to end a more than two-week standoff that has bogged down exports from one of the world’s main breadbaskets.
The CIARA-CEC chamber said it would top up salaries by 35% in 2020, a central demand of the striking workers, many of whom stayed on the job through the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The group also offered a 70,000 peso (about $840) bonus to compensate for the risks entailed.
The chamber said on social media its offer represented “the highest salaries in the Argentine private sector.”
Argentina is the top international supplier of soymeal livestock feed used to fatten hogs, cattle and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia. It is also a major exporter of corn, wheat and raw soybeans.
Employees of soy processing factories in Argentina’s main agricultural export hub of Rosario, on the Parana River, say they want wage increases big enough to compensate for high inflation and risks from working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A source with one of the companies involved in the dealmaking told Reuters the offer had improved on the COVID bonus, the key sticking point in the negotiations.
The striking workers did not immediately respond to the latest offer. Argentina’s government has urged the parties to meet on Tuesday to resolve their differences.
International sales of farm products are Argentina’s main source of export dollars needed to stabilize the anemic peso currency and help fund coronavirus relief efforts.
Rosario port terminals have not received soybeans since the strike started on Dec. 9, delaying the loading of more than 100 cargo ships. The Urgara union of port-side grains inspectors and SOEA oilseed workers organization are also on strike.
The strikes have affected the operations of international agro-giants such as Cargill Inc, Bunge Ltd and Louis Dreyfus Co, and has sent soybean prices skyrocketing to six-year highs on the Chicago exchange.
(Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Richard Chang)(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.
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