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Bad time for the seafood sector of Mar del Plata

Click on the flag for more information about Argentina ARGENTINA
Tuesday, January 21, 2020, 01:20 (GMT + 9)

The update of the export tax accentuated the asymmetries in the productive models of the fisheries sector in the main fishing port of the country. Closure of fresh fish plants and threat of bankruptcies warn of the need to urgently apply measures to reverse the situation.

January used to be a quiet month in the Mar del Plata fisheries industry. A good part of the ships are complying with part of the biological stop while the land personnel is licensed for vacations. But the update of the export rights established by the new government between the Christmas holidays, seems to have been a bomb that exploded late in recent days and filled with convulsions the first month of the year.

The fishing port of Mar del Plata has a sector for coastal vessels (yellow boats) and another sectorr for deep-sea fishing vessels (red vessels) (Photo: Stock File)

What Revista Puerto  anticipated in one of the last notes of 2019 crystallized within a few days: the critical situation of companies with no major alternatives to reprocess hake on land with a prominent labor structure, with negative commercial equations, whose foundations began to shake and are already cracking.

Today the coastal fleet is stopped after Ardapez, the Chinese seafood processor and one of its main customers as buyers of the 'variado' (mixed of coastal fish species), reduced on average ARS 5 the value of the kilo of fish. After completing the first fishing trip, they left the vessels moored at “Puerto Piojo” on Pier 10 and Sebastián Agliano warned that they will not leave until there are margins of profitability.

A week ago the rumor of the closure of Arte Pesca was installed with force. The next day the fish processing company belonging to Bermejo and Ortiz de Zárate did not raise the blind and left a hundred fish workers in the street, after fixing an exit that was not close to the double compensation reinstated after the assumption of President Alberto Fernández.

No one in the port speaks badly of Daniel Berasategui, the visible face of the company that exported hake to the United States. It is said that costs are unbearable, that clients stopped buying him ... the point is that suddenly he got rid of the peons, packers and cold storage workers that he grouped in that property like the fillets  cut in the facilities of Hernandarias and Triunvirato. Even the SOIP ignores how many workers were.

The closure of Arte Pesca hastened the hearings that the exporting fish processing sector was holding with Carlos Liberman and also with the new undersecretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Province of Buenos Aires and future representative of the district in the Federal Fisheries Council, Carla Sain.

The industrialists and their representatives have added kilometers like never before in the first month of the year. Fleet color stratification, the fine comb to separate on-board frozen products from those manufactured on land when applying export duties seems like a predictable sung measure. The problem is it alone is not enough.

“This is not an exclusive problem that the Undersecretariat of Fisheries must solve,” said Mariano González, a reference for Cafrexport and UDIPA after periodic meetings with the national and provincial authorities.

Photo: Revista Puerto

“Tax and financial measures are required to face this difficult time. But not generalized policies because there are different production structures and today the situation related to the fresh chain is really critical,” explained the manager.

While industrialists share meetings with Liberman in his office and analyze variables, that fresh chain in Mar del Plata became more tense with the news that arrived from Ostramar/Taturiello and the facilities where it cuts fish and that add 300 workers.

Marcela Caputo gathered a group of delegates on Thursday morning and told them that she planned to declare state of insolvency and leave the form for voluntary retirement open. “Many of my classmates are on vacation, they are women with more than 20 years in the company who started crying when I told them what had been said at the meeting because they are breadwinners.”

Around the port there are many processing plants. (Photo: Stock File)

Yolanda Villalobos is a delegate of the company and her voice on the phone reflects the shock she is experiencing during these hours. "We do not want subsidies, we do not want an arrangement, we just want work, to have the possibility of bringing bread to our tables," summarizes the collective desire.

“Marcela (Caputo) says she has three vessels, but one only is working and she needs to sell the fish whole because she earns more money. She has already told the manufacturing facilities that she will not send them more fish," says the delegate.

On Friday, the compensation proposal for the Caputo fileting group was laughable and if there is no fish, what has not happened so far will finally happen: demonstrations in front of fish processing plants, street cutting and burning of rubber tires. Another curiosity of the summer 2020. There have been layoffs, workers at risk appear and nobody has raised their voices.

The industry cannot wait much longer. Arte Pesca and Ostramar are the first of a long list that can succumb and in its fall, throw more workers to the street. Frigorifico Sudeste depends on the decision of the receiver. Sur Trade lives a complex situation. El Marisco with the Di Leva brothers continues to detach themselves from ships to try to stay afloat.

In the middle of that chain the links begin to falter and some already broke off and fell to the floor. Distinguish among the most critical that still hold, taking into account the economic, social and environmental variables, appears as a vital obligation for the authorities in the coming days.

Author: Roberto Garrone / Revista Puerto




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