Crisis in Panama Leaves Losses of US$500 Million for Agribusiness

    The protests began more than 2 weeks ago with a teachers' strike and have continued after failed attempts by the government to quell them

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    The blockades and protests that began more than 2 weeks ago in Panama against the high cost of living have caused losses of around 500 million dollars to agricultural producers and agribusiness, sector organizations said.

    The blockades of the Inter-American Highway, which crosses the country and connects it with Central America, have produced food shortages in urban centers, including the capital, as well as fuel shortages, given the impossibility of trucks transiting.

    In Panama City, the vegetable and fruit refrigerators in supermarkets have been empty for days, while the shelves of these products in the main food market have remained closed since the merchandise has not arrived.

    Panama is “in a food emergency,” 15 unions said in a statement, in which they stated that “complete crops of vegetables and fruit” have been discarded, “more than 2 million liters of fresh milk” have been lost, and 10,000 steers have not been slaughtered, among others.

    “There are more than 500 million dollars of loss for the entire productive sector, involving what is for the local market and what is exported, in the last 15 days. Of this total, the losses of food products exceed 131 million dollars,” indicated the unions and associations of the agribusiness sector.

    No more roadblocks, austerity, and fight against corruption

    The producers and agro-industrialists asked the demonstrators to “suspend the roadblocks on the avenues and streets,” and to seek other forms of protest to achieve the demands that these productive unions recognize as valid.

    That is why they urged that “a great national dialogue be established, in which agreements are discussed and adopted that mean initiative for the generation of jobs, improvements in the quality of education, health services, access to medicines and support for national production”.

    The productive unions also asked “the different powers of the State to responsibly take the austerity measures that the people are demanding,” and to denounce and punish “exemplary acts of corruption that affect public money and property.” Also that the “appointment” of officials in the different public institutions be finished and that their unproductive personnel” be fired.

    The protests began more than 2 weeks ago with a teachers’ strike and have continued after failed attempts to quell them by the Government, which approved subsidies for fuel and some food and a 10% reduction in spending, measures considered on the bases of the guilds and unions as “insufficient”.

    Representatives of the government of President Laurentino Cortizo, the Alianza Pueblo Unidos por la Vida, and the Alianza Nacional del Pueblo Organizado (Anadepo), the main promoters of the protests, as well as indigenous groups, are expected to meet at a single table organized, to begin drawing the roadmap of a dialogue.

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