Argentine farmers to halt grains sales for protest against govt

Argentine farmers will halt sales of grains in a protest against a tax on soy exports and other government agricultural policies, farm leaders said.

Argentine farmers to halt grains sales for protest against govt
Argentine farmers will halt sales of grains and livestock in a renewed protest against a tax on soy exports and other government agricultural policies, farm leaders said on Thursday.

Deepening a long-running political standoff, farmers will hold back livestock and grains from the market for four days beginning on Friday, according to farm leaders.

The government sought to meet with farmers and avert a strike over issues ranging from export taxes to price controls and government aid to farmers suffering from a prolonged drought. But farm leaders dismissed the move as a "ploy."

Producers, squeezed by falling commodity prices amid the global economic downturn, have stepped up calls for lower export taxes, particularly on the country's top crop, soy.

Months of protests over similar issues last year set off a political crisis for President Cristina Fernandez.

Analysts said they did not expect the action to affect exports from Argentina, a leading supplier of soybeans, corn, wheat and beef.

"International trade will not be interrupted by a four-day strike," said Patricia Bergero, deputy director of economic research at the Rosario Grains Exchange.

The news had no impact on the Chicago grain markets, with active CBOT soybean futures contracts ending the day lower.

Last year's protests slowed Argentina's economy as farmers disrupted grains exports and blocked highways, causing food and fuel shortages in a crisis-scarred country.

Mario Llambias, president of the Argentine Rural Confederations, a leading farm group, urged the government to include possible export tax cuts in talks scheduled to start on Tuesday.

"We're going to discuss all the issues ... including the taxes," he said.

Invitation to talks

Production Minister Debora Giorgi invited leaders of Argentina's four biggest farm groups to meet on Tuesday, Feb. 24, to discuss the impact of the global economic crisis, which has depressed prices for Argentine soy, corn and wheat.

Farm leaders said the government dragged its feet in calling the meeting for Tuesday. Last week, farmers postponed a threatened strike, appealing for a meeting with Fernandez to resolve the months-long deadlock.

The government revealed late on Wednesday that the head of the Argentine Rural Society, one of the country's four main farm groups, had held secret meetings with the planning minister to try to reach an accord to satisfy riled farmers.

"We had reached significant agreements on beef, milk and wheat sales. The thing is that dialogue does not mean having to say 'yes' to everything," Fernandez said.

The president reiterated that her government would not lower export taxes on soy, which is one of the farmers' key demands, saying it would affect fiscal stability.

Reuters
Last Mod: 20 Şubat 2009, 12:05
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