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Chile truck strike paralyzes salmon deliveries in Magallanes

All fresh deliveries for this week will be disrupted; strike set to hit Los Lagos too by the weekend.

A truck strike which began last night in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas is causing havoc for the salmon industry throughout the entire Magallanes region.

Truck drivers are striking over increasing fuel prices and blocking vital cargo routes in protest.

All the salmon farmers in the region -- including Salmones Magallanes, Australis, Cermaq and Nova Austral -- are currently being impacted by the strike. All harvesting and fresh deliveries are expected to be disrupted this week.

Blumar and Multiexport have started stocking in the region but do not have any production yet, so have escaped impact so far. Australis, however, has more than 100 metric tons of salmon that it cannot process as a result of the blockade.

Cermaq, too, has harvested salmon it cannot process, and will fail to deliver fresh orders.

Salmones Magallanes also cannot harvest and what is processed today will have to be frozen because it will not be able to leave town.

Normally 85 percent of Salmones Magallanes’ production is sold as fresh, with the company processing between 70 and 80 metric tons per day.

"All fresh deliveries this week will be affected," Oscar Garay, farming manager at Salmones Magallanes, told IntraFish.

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"We are freezing all the production we harvested yesterday but our frozen storage capacity is not that high. We have stopped harvests completely now until we know more."

Concessions in the Seno Skyring area, located just outside the city of Punta Arenas, are the most affected because company officials cannot access processing plants.

"It is affecting us, the vessels are arriving to the bay now and we will see if they can offload the product," Ricardo Misraji, CEO of Australis, told IntraFish.

"There is a meeting today to see what will happen, but we are trying to evaluate contingency plans."

Total salmon production in the Magallanes region was 96,000 metric tons in 2017, and this year the figure is expected to be 88,000 metric tons. For 2019, the industry is forecasting total production of 102,000 metric tons from the region.

The strike is scheduled to hit Puerto Montt on Friday, which would affect salmon farmers in Los Lagos, in Region X, as well. SalmonChile confirmed to IntraFish meetings are being held to expand the strike to other areas.

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"The strike in Magallanes is a concern because it has stopped the normal routine of the industry, but we are trying to contact the authorities to see how to solve the situation and also to stop it from expanding to other salmon regions," Arturo Clement, president of SalmonChile told IntraFish.

For now it is unclear when the strike will end.

Truck drivers are requesting three things: lower fuel prices; that local industries commit to only work with local trucking companies; and a dry port for trucks to park.

Trucks started to arrive at 2 am this morning along the international route CH-255 -- the road that goes to Punta Delgada and which connects the continental territory with the island of Tierra del Fuego -- with the purpose of blocking and preventing the passage of all kinds of cargo transport.

Miguel Cárdenas, president of Punto Arenas truck drivers' association (Asoducam) blames the regional government for a lack of clarity over its position.

"The mobilisation is indefinite and will be evaluated day to day," he said, according to the website of the El Mercurio newspaper.

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