Argentina slammed by other South American countries for charging river tolls

Argentina was yesterday sticking to its guns about a decision to charge vessels to navigate a key river channel to the South Atlantic.

Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay have united in urging Argentina to stop applying the tolls for ships and barges that are carrying grains and other exports. In a joint statement issued on Sunday September 10th they called the tolls “unilateral and arbitrary”.

Argentina’s decision to seize a barge from Paraguay-based shipping company Mercurio Group in order to collect an unpaid toll led the four other countries to say that Argentina’s move could affect supply and prices.

The barge was released on Monday after its owner paid the toll, a company spokesperson told local radio.

Argentina insists that tolls on the Paraguay-Parana waterway, which is a key transport route to the sea for inland areas of Paraguay, Bolivia and south Brazil, are necessary to maintain the 3,400km  channel that ends at Buenos Aires.

Argentina’s energy minister was scheduled to meet with Paraguay’s foreign minister later on Monday to address the matter.

Argentina suffered a fall in its recent soy and corn harvests because of drought, and has imported ore than 7m tonnes of soybeans in the first seven months of this year, 51% from Paraguay and 45% from Brazil.

Paraguay recently announced it will go to the Mercosur trade bloc Permanent Review Court to resolve the dispute.