Friday, April 4, 2008

Farmer strikes bring country to its knees

FARM strikes that have stripped Argentina’s supermarket shelves of meat and vegetables and crippled their export trade have been suspended.

Farming associations will now enter into dialogue with the government in a hope to resolve their differences over export taxes.

Farming leaders have confirmed that the strikes, that have lasted nearly four weeks, will be suspended for at least 30 days to allow for discussions to take place and for the market place to return to some sense of normality.

Head of the Argentine Beef Consortium (ABC), Mario Rauettino, welcomed an end to the strikes. He said the lock down had prevented the slaughtering of around 500,000 head of cattle and left foreign order contracts unfulfilled.

It is understood export cattle to the EU will be slaughtered from Friday and exports should be back up to speed by May.

Peter Hardwick, international manager for AHDB meat services said that the tight supplies would have a knock on effect on EU prices.

On Tuesday evening thousands of people spilled onto the streets of Buenos Aires banging pots and pans in protest at the government’s treatment of farmers after an increase in export taxes on meat and grain commodities. Most notably Argentina’s chief export – soybean – was hit by an export tax increase from 35 per cent to 45 per cent.

Political commentators called it the worst crisis to hit Argentina since the economic collapse of 2001 yet the editorials in Tuesday morning’s newspapers all confirmed the government’s desire to dialogue, not to negotiate with industry leaders.

In her toughest test since becoming president, Cristina Kirchner said that export taxes were to keep agricultural products in Argentina, curb inflation and redistribute income to the poor. But a powerful farming lobby brought the country’s beef and grain industries to a standstill in protest.

Due to the domestic turmoil, President Kirchner had to cancel her scheduled trip to London this week.

No comments: