Argentina trucker strike ends, boosting grains exports


By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, June 30 (Reuters) - An Argentine truckers strike ended on Thursday, after some unions upset with diesel shortages reached a deal to lift the one-week protest around the major port of Rosario, which is expected to help the flow of grains for export going forward.

The truck driver protest over high fuel prices has paralyzed corn and other grains exports just as the bulk of the harvest was headed to ports for shipment to foreign markets.

Some protests, however, could continue since some smaller truckers groups were not involved in the deal.

Argentina is the world's second biggest corn exporter, the top exporter of processed soyoil and meal, as well as a major wheat and beef supplier.

"Despite not agreeing (with a recent negotiation of truck cargo rates) and taking into account the crisis that our country is going through, we decide to lift the strike," one of the unions, Autoconvocados Unidos, said in a statement.

The union described its decision as an act of good will.

The volume of trucks entering ports had already picked up on Thursday, up some 70% versus a day earlier to reach over 1,500 vehicles, according to data from the Rosario grains exchange.

Rosario's ports are the point of departure for 80% of Argentina's agricultural exports, most of which arrives in trucks.

"It's getting back to normal," said Guillermo Wade, manager of the country's maritime port chamber, referring to the ability of trucks to access the port.

Also on Wednesday, the transport ministry agreed with some farm and transport groups that were not involved in the strike to hike grain freight rates by 25%.

But most protesting unions, including the UNTRA truckers union, called the rate increase insufficienteven as they mostly opted to remove highway blockades.

"We have many more expenses than that," said UNTRA leader Carlos Geneiro.

Argentina: grains truck traffic

Argentina: grains truck traffic (Interactive graphic)

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Additional reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Editing by Adam Jourdan, Nick Zieminski and Aurora Ellis)

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