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Salmon producers in the Magallanes region are being hit hard by the customs dispute.
Salmon producers in the Magallanes region are being hit hard by the customs dispute.

Salmon exports from Chile have been severely disrupted by a strike by customs officers unhappy with staffing issues, working hours and retirement benefits.

Felipe Sandoval, president of salmon producers' organisation Salmonchile, said that virtually no exports were possible from the Magallanes region and the Los Lagos region has also experienced problems.

Felipe Sandoval has warned that disruptions to exports will further harm the reputation of the Chilean salmon industry.
Felipe Sandoval has warned that disruptions to exports will further harm the reputation of the Chilean salmon industry.

"In fact, a processing plant decided to suspend operations because of the uncertainty. This [strike] complicates the sector quite a lot, because the image of the salmon industry is beginning to be affected and again we have problems with our target groups and markets, distrust is generated and our competitiveness as a producer country is affected," said Sandoval.

He said exports to Brazil are the most complex, since they leave from the Los Lagos region in trucks, and the Magallanes region is also being affected, since some exports also cross land borders.

Restrictions

As for air freight, Sandoval said: "Santiago, from which the vast majority of products that go to the United States are exported, has been operating slowly and with several restrictions."

Regarding possible solutions, Sandoval commented that customs maintains emergency shifts, but in the Magallanes region these shifts are not operating regularly.

"We cannot negotiate with customs workers, because it is a conflict with the Government and we have to communicate with the authorities. We hope they can solve it as soon as possible and in the best way, to regularise the export situation," Sandoval said.

The strike action by the National Association of Customs Officers (ANFACH) began last week, causing disruption for thousands of those passing through border check points, ports, airports and freight terminals.

The union is demanding that the government fulfils its promise to provide an extra 250 officers around entry ports and airports, and is also asking for increased retirement benefits.

Union officials also argue that working hours should be reduced, as the average Chilean customs officer is made to work an extra 150 hours per month on top of the 192 hours per months that they are contracted to work.