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Argentina: Pay dispute paralyzes Patagonian fruit exports to Brazil

For the last couple of days, fruit exports from Neuquen and Rio Negro to Brazil have been stopped because of the protest of packaging workers demanding a 40 percent wage increase. 

On Wednesday, there were some 40 Brazilian trucks in the vicinity of the two of the biggest packing plants in the city of Centenario ready to load their products and depart for Brazil. The trucks, which were at the storehouses of the La Deliciosa and La Flor companies, could not be loaded because of the strike.

These two companies, which produce, package and market fruits and vegetables, could loose more than a million dollars in exports because of the strike. 

Paul Vinet, delegate of the cooperative La Flor, told the press that the workers were preventing the entry and exit of trucks to be checked by customs personnel operating in the companies. 

"We have taken the two customs in the city. We're asking for an increase in our salary scale for the second half of the year," said Vinet about the root of the conflict. 

The workers are demanding a 40% increase in salary, but Argentina's Chamber of Integrated Fruit Growers (CAFI), which groups the fruit export business sector, has offered workers to increase their salary by 12 percent. 

The crackdown has also affected fruit exports from Villa Regina, in the department of General Roca in the province of Black River, as the customs facilities have also been closed. 

The town mainly cultivates pears and apples, which are the basis of the economy of the region. 

Each of trucks waiting to load can carry about 24 tons of pears and apples destined for various business locations in Brazil. 

According to the employers, the strike could leave losses of more than a million dollars because of the delivery dates set with Brazil and because that country has begun importing apples from the Upper Valley as a result of the strike. 

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