A week-long general strike by Chilean lorry drivers is beginning to affect the country's foreign trade as goods fail to reach their ports of shipment. The fruit guild reported Monday that some 30 million kilos of exportable cherries had remained ashore due to the measure.
Federation of Fruit Producers President Jorge Valenzuela told reporters that 1,700 cherry containers were left behind with around 30 million kilos of cherry that should have been exported. He added that US$ 50 million are at risk in just the containers that remained in Chile.
He also noted that the ports of San Antonio and Valparaiso continued to be blocked and underlined the fact that 81 % of the world's exports of fresh fruit during the 2021-2022 season had passed through either of those ports.
For every cherry that should be shipped and does not arrive at the terminal, there are five others waiting to be harvested in the fields and that, now, are burning on trees in the Metropolitan, O'Higgins, and Maule regions, he lamented.
Chile is arguably the world's largest supplier of fresh cherries and the second-largest supplier of fresh plums. Chilean truck drivers began an indefinite work stoppage last Monday with the partial blockade of important routes in the country, especially in the north, demanding a reduction in the price of fuel and greater security on the roads.
The Confederación Gremial de Transportistas Fuerza del Norte, made up of independent carriers from northern towns, called the strike, while the Confederación Nacional de Dueños de Camiones described it as irresponsible and rejected the actions of force due to the serious economic difficulties the country is going through.
Losses due to the truckers' strike could amount to US$ 500 million, according to union sources. Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (Asoex) President Iván Marambio said cherries, blueberries, and stone fruits are the most affected products. During the weekend we had three ships. On Friday it left with 50 percent; on Saturday with 30 percent, and last night with practically zero cargo, we are totally stopped, he lamented. He also pointed out that if the stoppage continues losses might come close to US$ 500 million.
Agriculture Minister Esteban Valenzuela said that the regions of Arica, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, and Maule were the ones hit most severely by the measure, which was seriously affecting the production chain.