REUTERS REPORT

MADRID
DELIVERIES to Spanish wholesale food markets began returning to normal and factories started to get back to work yesterday as a truck strike over fuel costs began to weaken, industry officials said.

Following police action to clear pickets from highways, trucks made big deliveries of fresh produce to Madrid's Mercamadrid wholesale food market, averting the danger of the capital's supermarkets running out of stocks, vegetable and meat wholesale associations said.

Car factories around Spain also began preparing to get back to work after many were forced to close due to a shortage of supplies caused by the strike by 75'000 truckers which began on Sunday night, according to auto association ANFAC.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero deployed 25'000 police to break pickets blocking highways and allow working truckers to pass. He promised “zero tolerance” for violent strikers after incidents in which picketers intimidated or attacked vehicles trying to get through.

The government persuaded most truckers to go back to work with promises of tax breaks but has refused to accede to demands for minimum haulage charges.
About 6 percent of Spain's truckers are still on strike.
Meanwhile, back in the Islands, Balearic Business Federation (Afedeco) president Bartomeu Servera explained yesterday that five or six days will be necessary to “evaluate” the damage that has been done to regional trade as a direct result of the mainland strike. He said that although no detailed report is yet available, it is likely that losses will be due to “lack of delivery, lack of saleable fresh goods and if and when they eventually arrived - they had perished.” At a national level, however, traders were already claiming “irretrievable losses” but giving assurances that the cost will not be passed on to the consumer. Miguel Angel Fraile, secretary of the Spanish Traders Confederation described last week's damaging transport strike as an “upheaval.”

MAJORCA WEATHERS THE STORM
On Majorca however, wholesale distributors Mercapalma claim that operations have been running “absolutely normally” since last Friday when lorries started rolling in off the ferries, laden with supplies.

Palma City Council sources said that the delivery agencies were replete with goods which the wholesalers had “kept in reserve” to offset shortages caused by a prolonged strike. A spokesman said that there had only been a notable lack of fresh produce on Tuesday and Wednesday when chicken was not readily available along with some fruit and vegetables which are normally imported from Almeria and Murcia, but that there had been no lack of supply on Friday.

The major unions representing the striking hauliers claim that the industrial action has been “temporarily suspended.” Representatives said that although none of their demands have been dropped, they will be looking for other means of finding a solution to the crisis.

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