State Security calls made over Chilean port strikes

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State Security calls made over Chilean port strikes

Chile's National Agricultural Society (SNA) has called on the government to enact article 11 of the State Security Law, in a bid to free around 1,600 containers of fruit stuck in the port of San Antonio. Containers panorama _ Flickr _ photohome_uk

The Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) has estimated losses for the fruit in the range of US$50 million, to which daily costs of US$6 million can be added in relation to shipping and other logistical expenditures.

SNA president Patricio Crespo condemned the manifestations that had reached 18 days of striking yesterday, highlighting their "serious damages" for the fruit sector.

"This situation undermines the reputation that our fruit exporters have earned for the quality of their products and responsibile compliance with shipping times," he said.

"We hope that this conflict comes to a quick solution to prevent major damage to the agricultural export sector."

With apples and kiwifruit able to hold up to delays in cold storage, and berry and stonefruit export seasons practically finished, it is grape growers and exporters who are suffering the most from these actions.

They risk missing arrivals in the U.S. before the Marketing Order kicks in on April 10 when higher demands will be placed on fruit quality, while if fruit does not make it to South Korea before May 1 it will carry a tariff of 45%.

One exporter told he was considering sending his fruit to the northern port of Coquimbo, but the problem was finding an available truck as so many were already held up in the supply chain. The port of Valparaiso is another option some exporters are taking, but it does not have the capacity to move such a large extra volume.

ASOEX president Ronald Bown labeled the situation as "unacceptable".

"We find it a duty to express categorically that this situation is unacceptable in a country where institutionality is supposed to protect those who undertake activities within the context of our legislation," he said.

"This becomes even more serious when the majority of those affected are small and medium producers - those who play their livelihood in this part of the season.

ASOEX's board of directors will meet at 4:30pm today (Tuesday) to analyze the laws it can use to defend its "inalienable rights" that have been "violated for the umpteenth time".

Fedefruta president Cristián Allendes said around three million cartons of fruit had been detained in San Antonio, mainly bound for the markets of the U.S., Mexico, South Korea and Europe.

"Today is April 1 and we require 12 days to reach the United States by sea, which means it's already impossible to reach this market without the Marketing Order," he said.

"That will mean, in the best of cases, re-directing that fruit to other markets and as a consequence sacrificing the price, quality and associated costs.

"Who bears that loss? Surely the small and medium growers."

He added the hold-up of fruit had led to congestion in cold storage facilities because it could not be dispatched to the port."

"We want the union leaders, the port company Ultraport, authorities and the public to realize that we are doing irreparable harm to small and medium producers, and thousands of workers engaged in the fruit industry.

"For over three years competitiveness has been lost from rising costs and the low exchange rate, and with this strike which is also illegal and doesn't have anything to do with our work, many growers and companies could disappear and this tremendous disaster will be their responsibility."

Photo. Flickr, photohome_uk

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