By Hugh Bronstein and Maximilian Heath
BUENOS AIRES, July 28 (Reuters) - Some 14 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Argentina's grains sector, affecting the operations of ports and oilseeds crushing plants, the head of the CIARA-CEC grains exporting and crushing chamber, Gustavo Idigoras, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Idigoras said the cases were detected in plants owned by Chinese food trading giant COFCO and U.S.-based Bunge Ltd BG.N. The plants are located in Argentina's main export hub of Rosario, along the Parana River in Santa Fe province.
A Bunge representative had no immediate comment. Reuters could not immediately reach COFCO for comment.
"Many communities around Rosario are severely affected by the virus. The Santa Fe provincial government has set up very strict rules regarding the circulation of people and goods," Idigoras said.
"We are reinforcing these rules in all grains terminals and processing plants. But we may expect more cases in coming days. Cases confirmed at Bunge and COFCO came from outside the plants, but they are affecting operations."
Idigoras added that 11 cases had been confirmed at COFCO facilities and three at Bunge.
Argentina is the world's No. 1 exporter of soymeal livestock feed used from Europe to Southeast Asia to fatten hogs, poultry and cattle. The South American country is also a major world supplier of raw soybeans, corn and wheat.
(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Maximilian Heath; additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Steve Orlofsky)
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