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June 9, 2016

Plant and Livestock Protection Technicians on Strike in Mato Grosso

On Monday of this week, technicians from the Plant and Livestock Protection Bureau of the State of Mato Grosso (Indea) and the Land Institute of the State of Mato Grosso (Intermat) went on strike over salaries and working conditions. Of the 32 units associated with the Workers Forum, 30 are currently on strike. The workers rejected the state's latest proposal for a 6% wage increase spread over the payments stating that the proposed increase is only about half the rate of inflation.

Indea has offices and laborites in each of the 141 municipalities of the state and they are all currently closed. The law requires that 30% of the workers deemed essential for public safety remain on the job and Indea has confirmed that 30% of their employees are working. There are 950 employees in the various departments and they voted 98% in favor of the strike.

The most immediate impact of the work stoppage is on the meat processing industry in the state including beef, swine, and poultry processors. With only a skeletal crew of inspectors, the processing facilities must slow down their activities. This recent problems is coming on the heels of what has been a bad year for beef processors in the state, which has Brazil's largest cattle herd.

Thus far in 2016, beef processors in the state have only been operating at 43.3% of capacity according to the Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea). This is down from 2015 when the capacity was running at 44.6%. Processors last year had significant problems obtaining sufficient cattle to process and many slaughter facilities closed their doors in 2015. To make the situation even worse, there has been a significant slowdown in domestic demand for beef due to the severe economic problems in Brazil.

In addition to meat inspectors, Indea is also responsible for issuing permits for transporting animals within the state. Without these permits, livestock producers are not allowed to transport their animals to processing facilities.

While meat processing facilities are the most immediately impacted by the strike, Indea also handles grain inspections and it is the department that certifies that farmers adhere to the soybean-free period that will be in effect until mid-September. Technicians from Indea canvass the state looking for live soybean plants in fields, along roadways and around storage and transportation facilities. If live soybean plants are found, the land owner is notified and give 10 days to eliminate the plants. If he fails to do so, they can face hefty fines. The goal of the program is to slow the spread of soybean rust from one growing season to the next.