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Coronavirus

COFCO's Grains Plant In Argentina Back Online After COVID-19 Shutdown

Grains operations at COFCO's oilseed crushing and export plant in Timbues, Argentina, are largely back online, after 12 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed among workers, a company spokesman said.

The 12 employees who tested positive last month are asymptomatic and 77 other workers had been tested as well, all coming up negative. The outbreak was in the plant's sampling station, where farm products are received at the Timbues port facility on the Parana River, Argentina's grains superhighway.

The outage at the plant, which employs 350 workers and has an annual grains and oilseeds capacity of 6.5 million tonnes, started on July 27.

Grains Impact

The cases had thrown a scare into Argentina's grains sector, the country's top source of export dollars as the pandemic pushes the economy deeper into recession.

"Timbues is largely operational with full capacity available and we expect the last section, the sampling station, to also be back in operation around Wednesday this week," said Allan Virtanen, global communications director at COFCO International, the overseas agriculture business platform for China's largest food and agriculture company.

"The plant is not receiving trucks until the sampling station gets back online. But there is sufficient stock to crush and load vessels now," Virtanen said.

Argentina is the world's top supplier of soymeal livestock feed, used to fatten hogs, poultry and cattle form Europe to Southeast Asia. It is also a major corn and wheat exporter.

Further Tests

U.S. agribusiness firm Bunge said last week that one employee at its facility in Puerto General San Martin, Argentina, had tested positive for COVID-19 and that others who had been in contact with the person had been isolated and tested, though these had come back negative.

Argentina's CIARA-CEC grains exporting and crushing chamber, said the COFCO and Bunge cases were the first confirmed within Argentina's port facilities.

News by Reuters, edited by ESM. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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