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Argentina agro-export companies, workers launch fresh talks to end strike

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Argentina’s oilseed workers and agro-export companies said on Tuesday they would meet to hash out their differences in a government-mediated bid to end a more than two-week standoff that has bogged down exports from one of the world’s main breadbaskets.

Employees of soy processing factories in Argentina’s main agricultural export hub of Rosario, on the Parana River, walked off the job on Dec. 9. They have demanded wage increases big enough to compensate for high inflation and risks from working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Argentina’s Ministry of Labor will host the Tuesday meeting in an effort to normalize exports as quickly as possible. The port-side strike has stalled the loading of more than 140 agricultural export ships in Argentina.

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.

Argentina’s influential CIARA-CEC chamber of soyoil manufacturers and exporters on Sunday spiced up an offer to striking workers, proposing further increases in its wage and bonus proposals.

“We hope the Ministry of Labor ... sets salary conditions in accordance with the reality of the industry and the country,” said Gustavo Idígoras, head of CIARA-CEC.

A spokesman for the Federation of Oil Workers - which is on strike together with the Union of Oil Workers and Employees (SOEA) - said the union had yet to formally receive the latest offer. Some of the offer’s details were posted Sunday on social media by CIARA-CEC.

“So we will find out right then and there at the hearing,” the spokesman said. “Based on that, we will see if it is possible to reach an agreement.”

The strike has 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 Maximilian Heath; writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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