Workers from agricultural export companies in Peru renewed protests this week after Congress failed to reach an agreement to reform the sector and address their complaints about poor pay.
Footage from local television showed hundreds of agricultural workers blocking the Panamerican highway that runs along the coast in the southern Ica region and the northern La Libertad region.
During a similar, five-day protest in early December, hundreds of passenger buses and trucks loaded with food were stranded by road blockades.
One person died after clashes between protesters and police. So far, the latest protests have been peaceful.
The previous protests ended after Congress repealed an old agriculture promotion law that workers complained put the rights of big companies over workers, leaving them receiving salaries as low as 39 soles (US$ 11) daily.
Over the weekend, however, after a two-day debate, Congress failed to reach consensus on the law’s replacement, specifically a clause around higher base salaries for workers, sending it back to a legislative commission instead.
The Association of Agricultural Producers Guilds of Peru (AGAP), which brings together companies in the sector, has said that a call by some legislators to increase the base salary by up to 50% would drive up costs and force them to re-evaluate their investments.
On Monday AGAP called on Congress to work “responsibly” to create a new legal framework. “Violence agitated by a few hundred cannot again put the jobs of hundreds of thousands of formal farm workers at risk,” the guild said in a statement.
Agro-exports in recent years have become Peru’s second-biggest generator of foreign exchange. Peru is the world’s leading exporter of blueberries, but also ships fresh grapes, asparagus and avocados to China, the United States and Europe.