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Argentine farmers strike to protest export tax hike

A gaucho drives a carriage through the pampas (lowland plains), a primary farming and ranching region of Argentina. (CIA.gov)

Buenos Aires | Reuters — Argentine farmers began a four-day sales strike on Monday to protest the government’s hike of export taxes for soybeans and their byproducts, though shipments were not impacted in the major global food exporter.

Three of the South American country’s four main rural associations announced the strike last week in frustration over the government’s decision to raise soy export taxes to 33 per cent from 30 amid a deep economic crisis.

The impact of the strike would likely be visible by Tuesday when grains and beef already sold will not arrive at ports, industry experts said.

“Surely, tomorrow we’ll feel it,” Guillermo Wade, head of Argentina’s CAPyM port operators’ chamber, said in reference to the port area of Rosario, from where about 80 per cent of the country’s grains and byproduct exports are shipped.

About 4,800 trucks carrying grains entered the terminals on the Parana River at Rosario on Monday, according to CAPyM data. On the same date last week, the number of trucks was 3,100.

“The activity in the port area [of Rosario] is completely normal,” Wade said, adding that the strike is not expected to impact grains shipments because the export companies have reserves in their ports. The latest crop of soy has also not been harvested, Wade said, further mitigating the impacts of the strike.

The protest has political implications in Argentina, one of the world’s largest exporters of soybeans and corn, as it is reminiscent of a conflict between farmers and the Peronist government of former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner from 2007 to 2015.

There was practically no activity on Monday in the Rosario exchange, Argentina’s main grains market. “There is very little, almost no movement,” said Guillermo Moulia, a trader for the Guardati Torti brokerage, located in Rosario.

Fernandez de Kirchner is currently vice-president to center-left President Alberto Fernandez.

Her administration was locked in a fierce dispute with agriculture producers that reached a boiling point in 2008 when she attempted to raise taxes on soy exports. Farmers held massive protests that forced the administration to back down.

— Reporting for Reuters by Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires; writing by Cassandra Garrison, Marina Lammertyn and Hugh Bronstein.

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