Argentina farmers halt crop sales to protest policies

Three-day strike aimed at quotas, taxes

Argentina’s farmers halted crop sales for three days, March 11-13, to protest leftist interventionist government policies they say erode their profits, according to a report. Three out of four of the largest farming groups in Argentina took part in the strike, aimed at reducing the delivery of grains to port.

“The halt to sales is widespread throughout the country,” said Luis Etchevehere, president of the Argentine Rural Society. “We’re demonstrating against government policymaking over the last 12 years that just hasn’t worked.”

Argentina imposes export quotas on wheat and corn in order to guarantee strong local supplies and keep consumer prices low. It also levies a 35 percent tax on soybean exports, which farmers say kills their profits.

Farmers threatened to continue protests if the government did not respond. They pledge to make their grievances known ahead of October’s presidential election. Relations between farmers and President Cristina Fernandez have been strained since a widespread farmers rebellion in 2008.

“This is not a strike,” said Fernandez’s cabinet chief, Anibal Fernandez. “It is a lockout by bosses who handle a certain level of production.”

Argentina is the world’s top soymeal exporter and a major source of corn and wheat for world markets. Exports were unlikely to be affected during the strike because there was an ample amount of reserves in storage.