The first cases of COVID-19 at port terminals in Argentina that ship soyabean meal and oil have been recorded, the MercoPress reported on 29 July.

China’s state-owned food company COFCO International, US-based agribusiness Bunge and local soya crusher Vicentin had reported cases among employees at plants north of Rosario on the Paraná River.

COFCO had halted work at an oilseed crushing plant and port facility after 12 workers tested positive for the virus while Bunge had stopped operations at a similar nearby facility after one employee tested positive, MercoPress said. A Vicentin bottling plant in the vicinity had also been temporarily out of action after reporting one case.

During the temporary closure of COFCO’s Timbúes plant, the firm had been directing cargoes to its Puerto General San Martin terminal and facilities run by other companies, according to a company spokesperson. COFCO said it did not expect significant delays in delivering products to buyers.

Bunge had also been redirecting trucks to other facilities after its Puerto General San Martin terminal and crush plant were idled, a spokesperson said.

A worker at Argentinian soyabean processor Renova, a partnership between Vicentin and Switzerland-based Glencore, had tested positive earlier in the year but had been quickly isolated and no more cases had been reported at Renova’s two plants in the same area north of Rosario, Vicentin’s spokesperson said.

The confirmation of cases in Argentina’s key export industry was a blow for President Alberto Fernandez, who put in place a strict lockdown in March and had only just started to soften it in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, MercoPress said.

Sixty workers from plant-port facilities around Rosario had also been self-isolating, according to Gustavo Idigoras, head of Argentina’s crop export and crush group Ciara-Cec, whose members include the global agribusiness giants.

Companies were increasing protocols with the virus appearing to be spreading in nearby communities, Idigoras said.

Rosario is in Santa Fe province, which had also taken more stringent measures recently due to a spike in cases.