Argentine truck drivers block roads at harvest peak, protest lack of diesel

BUENOS AIRES, June 22 (Reuters) - Angry Argentine truck drivers blocked highways on Wednesday, protesting shortages and rising prices for diesel fuel, just as the country's crucial grains harvest requires transport amid surging inflation.

Truck driver unions said the protests across the major corn and soybeans exporting nation will continue for an unspecified amount of time, aimed at pressuring the government to do more to address the extended motor fuel shortages and rising prices.

Outside the capital Buenos Aires, standstill traffic on a main highway extended some 4 miles (7 km) as a result of one of the protests, called for by commercial transportation unions.

National truck drivers union UNTRA asked the government to assure what it described as proportional diesel prices, according to a statement on Wednesday. Other associations joined in on the highway blockades, blasting the spiking cost of diesel.

Nearly the entire country, or 21 of 23 provinces, suffer fuel shortages, according to the national freight transport federation Fadeeac.

Senior government officials laid the blame for the shortages on growing demand as the economy recovers from a pandemic-led slowdown.

"The lack of diesel is a conflict, a complaint, that really has to do with growth," said presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti, speaking on local broadcaster Radio Con Vos. She added that the problems are being resolved but did not go into specifics.

This month, the government raised required biodiesel content in diesel blends, hoping that could help alleviate shortages of the industrial motor fuel.

Domestic demand for diesel jumped 14% year-over-year in the first quarter, according to government data.

Reporting by Lucila Sigal; Writing by David Alire Garcia and David Gregorio

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