Argentina's grains hub of Rosario was paralyzed on Thursday by the second day of pay strikes by unions representing stevedores and other workers needed to dock and load recently-harvested soy and corn, union and management spokesmen said.
The work stoppages threaten to slow supply from grains powerhouse Argentina
, putting upward pressure on world food prices
. The country is the world's top exporter of soymeal livestock feed and its No. 3 supplier of raw soybeans.
"All docking and loading services are shut down at every one of the 25 ports from the city of Rosario going north along the Parana River to Timbues," Edgardo Quiroga, spokesman for the CGT umbrella labor organization told Reuters
The 25 ports constitute the Gran Rosario hub, Argentina's main point of embarkation for grains, oilseeds and derivatives.
If a wage deal is not reached by Monday evening, Quiroga said CGT members will start an open-ended strike at Midnight. The labor group is negotiating with CIARA-CEC, Argentina's chamber of grains exporting and soy crushing companies.
Flash work stoppages are common in Argentina, where workers demand pay increases in line with annual inflation clocked by private economists at 25 to 30 percent.
At a busy time of the year for exporters, smack in the middle of Southern Hemisphere soy and corn harvest season, the captains of small vessels that take river pilots out to assist incoming grains ships are also striking over wage demands.
The pilots, who must board cargo ships to guide them to their berths at port, stopped sailing on Wednesday. Once the CGT work stoppage ends late Thursday, Coast Guard vessels will start ferrying the pilots out to ships, said Guillermo Wade, president of Argentina's Port and Maritime Activities Chamber.
"Tomorrow should be business as usual because the Coast Guard is ready to step in," he told Reuters.
CBOT soybean futures rallied to a 1-1/2 month peak early on Friday but surrendered those gains in a profit-taking and technical selloff, and as US farmers prepare to plant another massive crop.
Export sales of old-crop U.S. soybeans have been larger than expected at a time when South American shipments traditionally dominate the global marketplace as some importers are buying from the United States as a precaution against supply disruptions in Brazil or Argentina, US traders said.
(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein, additional reporting by Karl Plume; editing by Andrew Hay)