Argentina has reported its first cases of Covid-19 at port terminals that ship soy meal and oil to the world in a fresh blow to the global commodities trade already disrupted by the pandemic.
China’s Cofco International, Bunge Ltd. and local firm Vicentin SAIC reported cases among employees at plants north of Rosario on the Parana River, Argentina’s hub for shipments of soy meal for livestock feed and soy oil for cooking and biofuel. Argentina is the biggest exporter of the products.
Cofco has halted work at an oilseed crushing plant and port facility after 12 workers tested positive for Covid-19. Bunge stopped operations on Saturday at a similar facility nearby after one employee tested positive. A Vicentin bottling plant in the vicinity is also temporarily out-of-action after reporting one case.
Cofco’s Timbues plant could be shut for a week and the company is directing cargoes to its Puerto General San Martin terminal and facilities run by other companies, according to a spokesman. The firm said it doesn’t expect significant delays in delivering product to buyers.
Bunge is also redirecting trucks to other facilities after its Puerto General San Martin terminal and crush plant were idled Saturday, a spokeswoman said. Vicentin will shut down one shift at its bottling plant, Renopack, for 10 days but hopes to have the other shift up and running by Wednesday, according to spokesman.
A worker at Renova SA, a partnership between Vicentin and Switzerland-based Glencore Plc, tested positive earlier in the year but was quickly isolated and no more cases have been reported at Renova’s two plants in the same area north of Rosario, Vicentin’s spokesman said.
The confirmation of cases in Argentina’s key export industry is a kick in the teeth for President Alberto Fernandez, who put in place a strict lockdown in March and has only just started to soften it in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area even as cases continue to rise.
Sixty workers from plant-port facilities around Rosario are currently in self-isolation, said Gustavo Idigoras, head of Argentina’s crop export and crush group Ciara-Cec, whose members include the global agribusiness giants. Companies are beefing up protocols with the virus appearing to be spreading in nearby communities, Idigoras said.
Rosario is in Santa Fe province, which has also taken more stringent measures recently because of a spike in cases.