Cofco shutters Argentine soybean crusher on Covid-19 outbreak

Chinese state-owned agricultural trading house Cofco International confirmed its soybean crushing plant in the Argentine city of Timbues has been closed for a three-day period after several workers tested positive for Covid-19.

A worker who showed symptoms for the disease on Saturday tested positive and was isolated alongside seven co-workers who share the bus ride to the plant, with the union deciding to suspend operations on Monday evening.

“[The plant] is now closed for 72 hours. We don’t expect any significant delays in deliveries,” a Cofco spokesperson confirmed to Agricensus.

The outbreak continued to spread at the start of this week, with Pablo Reguera, the secretary general of the San Lorenzo Oil Workers Union (SOEA), confirming to a local radio station Tuesday that a total of 11 workers from the plant had tested positive for Covid-19.

The plant will be closed between Tuesday and Thursday; the situation will be reviewed on Friday.

The sanitary committee of the Argentine soybean crushing industry will hold a meeting this Thursday to evaluate the situation given the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the Santa Fe region and in several other plants.

“We had created this preventive sanitary committee in March with the aim of establishing sanitary protocols to be implemented at crushing plants and ports,” Gustavo Idigoras, head of the local oilseed crushing and exporters chamber Ciara-CEC, told Agricensus.

“We will have to analyse the current scenario as the circulation of the virus has accelerated in the Rosario area. We need to evaluate and take concrete actions due to this,” he added.

The decision follows closures at Bunge’s crushers at the Puerto General San Martín Industrial Complex in Santa Fe and Renova’s smaller and separate unit of Renopack in San Lorenzo after workers there also tested positive over the weekend.

Bunge’s plant, which has crush capacity of 8,000 mt per day of soybeans, was closed from Saturday.

Bunge and Renova will review the situations at those plants Wednesday when the new test results will be available.