Fallout from protests surrounding in the salmon processing hub of Quellon on Chile's southern Chiloe Island has reached a critical stage, according to Chilean salmon trade group SalmonChile.
A nine-day blockcade of the route to San Antonio in Quellon by protesters has led SalmonChile to warn of an "imminent health emergency," because of the lack of access to process, distribute and properly handle the fish.
SalmonChile is estimating some 800,000 fish -- which, at an average size and current price per kilo could be worth as much as $30 million (€26.9 million) -- are waiting to be processed, while another 320 metric tons of salmon, valued at around $3 million (€2.7 million) based on the same IntraFish estimates, is now decomposing.
On Monday, the first job losses resulted from the protests as Empresa Contratista de Rodrigo Valenzuela, which processes fish for Salmones Austral laid off as many as 450 workers, according to local media reports and the Mayor of Quellon Cristian Ojeda Chiguay.
Quellon remains a focus of protests, although the level of civil unrest across the South American nation has receded in recent days.
With protests now in their third week, Quellon plant workers have made their frustration clear at being unable to carry out their day-to-day responsibilities by staging their own counter-protests.
Quellon, which has only one access road and can only be reached by ferry, quickly became a strategic target for demonstrators.
Logistics in Chile have been hindered by more than two weeks of sometimes violent protests that began after a price hike was announced for fares on the metro in Chile's capital city of Santiago, spreading to other cities and locations around the country.
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