Lawmakers to debate farm law in effort to defuse blockade

Peruvian farm workers block major road, demanding better wages

Hundreds of workers from agricultural export companies in southern Peru have blocked a key highway in the country's south, stranding dozens of tractor-trailers with perishable products. The protesters, whose demands included higher wages, blocked the Panamericana Sur highway -300 km south of Lima- leaving trucks and motorists at a standstill for hours.

Protesters complain of paltry salaries as low as 39 soles ($11) daily and antiquated laws that favor big companies over workers. Peru produces a wide range of fruits and vegetables, from mangos to blueberries and asparagus, exporting to the United States, Europe, China and Canada.

Peru's ministers of agriculture and labor met with leaders of the farm workers movement on Wednesday but have yet to reach agreement to halt the demonstrations. "It is important to prioritize dialogue so that we do not generate consequences that we could later regret," said Interior Minister Rubén Vargas. He called on protesters to clear the roadway.

Lawmakers on Wednesday said they would debate changing, or even scrapping all together, the agriculture promotion law contested by the farm workers. The legislation is widely seen as having helped spur investment and the sector's development. But workers say the gains have come at their expense, leaving them with too-low wages and paltry benefits.


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