Argentine Farmers End Strike, Vow To Fight Soy Tax

Argentine farmers wrapped up a week-long strike March 27, vowing to lobby Congress to cut the soy export taxes that have fuelled a bitter year-long conflict with the government.

Farmers in the agricultural powerhouse halted sales of soybeans, other crops and livestock for seven days, bringing local grains and cattle markets to a standstill and helping drive U. S. soy futures to a five-week high this week.

Despite the end of the strike, farm leaders said they would keep on fighting the soy levies as the country prepares for mid-term elections in June, seen as a key test for President Cristina Fernandez.

“What we want is a sensible about-face on agricultural policy … the level of export taxes is central to that,” Eduardo Buzzi, head of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, told a news conference after meeting fellow farm leaders.

In an interview with Reuters, Buzzi said farmers see the June 28 congressional vote to renew half the lower house and a third of the Senate as a chance to build political support to reform the soy export taxes.

Farmers are trying to get lawmakers to back an opposition bill to lower the soy levy, but the ruling party’s congressional majority has allowed government allies to block the proposal.

“We will insist in Congress for the export tax system to be modified,” Hugo Biolcati, president of the Argentine Rural Society, said after Friday’s meeting.

The farmers did not rule out fresh strike action in the future, however.

U. S. soybean futures fell sharply March 27, with the end of the strike in Argentina contributing to the losses.

Argentina is the world’s No. 3 soybean exporter, after the United States and Brazil, and it is the leading supplier of soyoil and soymeal.

This year’s harvest began in recent weeks and output is set to fall from last year’s 46.2 million tonnes due to a harsh drought that has battered wheat and corn crops.

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