Strikes have stopped operations at some ports in Chile near the beginning of the country’s winter fruit export season.
“Fruit exports in Central Chile and copper shipments in the North have been stalled, as workers from several major ports across the country have gone on strike, raising fears the export-oriented economy could see a repeat of last year’s strikes, which lasted three weeks and cost millions of dollars," according to a report from Santiago Times.
was unable to obtain a comment from the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (Asoex), but the Santiago Times
said the Ronald Bown, president of Asoex, said in a release Thursday that the group expected a 28-percent decrease in exports because of strikes and other factors such as a frost. Bown reportedly complained both the
government and port authorities are refusing to assume the
responsibility of resolving the work stoppages.
“Hundreds of thousands of crates of perishable fruit are sitting idle in one of Chile’s major ports and exporters fear billion dollar losses unless work is resumed,” the Santiago Times said
In addition to copper and fruit, exports of forest products from other ports are also being impacted by the strikes.
story said that as many as nine ports may be affected, according to Chile’s government.
The strikes apparently began just before Christmas in the northern Chilean port of Angamos, which is important to the export of copper. Chile is the top producer of the metal. The Reuters
report said workers in Angamos returned to their jobs on Wednesday, but the strike has spread to other ports.
Poul Hestbaek, a senior vice president at Hamburg Sud in Miami, said that San Antonio, for example, an important port for the fruit trade, has been impacted. San Antonio, however, is only about 80 kilometers from Valparaiso, which has remained open.
Hestbaek said while there have already been some shipments of cherries, the strike comes near the beginning of the big season for fruit exports.
Nancy Tucker, a vice president of global business development for the Produce Marketing Association, said fruit imports from Chile “are crucial to our supply of winter fruit, and it is a key time of year. Now through March, it is a peak time production and shipping.
“It is a difficult situation because they found out how vulnerable the industry is last year when they had their strike,” she said. “They are using that leverage again because it is a perishable product.”
Tucker said the strike is illegal and that a major issue is a demand by workers for 30 minutes of pay for lunch breaks going back eight years.
Chile is a major exporter of grapes, plums, blueberries, cherries, apples and pears.
Ports along the Delaware River such Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., and Gloucester City, N.J., are all important participants in the Chilean fruit trade, and Tucker said Miami and Los Angeles/Long Beach are also gateways. But she said the impact has not been felt in the U.S. yet.