Argentine gov. and farmers reach first agreements
Argentina's government agreed Tuesday to several demands for dairy, beef and wheat production following a four hours meeting with farm leaders with the unexpected two hours participation of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the discussions.
The understanding occurs after months of acrid disputes and almost a year from the beginning of the conflict triggered by the increase of export taxes on grains, oil seeds and other agriculture commodities. According to the agreement the administration of President Cristina Kirchner will eliminate export taxes on dairy goods, increase the current annual beef export quota of 550,000 tons by 60,000 tons and raise wheat prices to 420 pesos (116 US dollars) a ton from 370 pesos, Production Minister Debora Giorgi following the meeting with farm leaders. "This is important progress that stimulates small producers to keep up their work" said Giorgi at a press conference at the Economy Ministry in Buenos Aires. Farmers have been pushing the government to lower a 35% levy on soybeans and sunflower exports and remove restrictions on exports of all farm goods after commodities prices plunged and the worst drought in about 50 years hurt crops. The government and farmers will resume negotiations on March 10 as producers seek to reduce the soybean export taxes, but the administration of Mrs. Kirchner has repeatedly stated that soybeans and sunflower levies will not be touched. Interiror Minister Florencio Randazzo described the meeting as "very positive" and said the presence of the President "was fundamental". He added, "I hope this is the end of the conflict". But farmers did not agree. "The conflict is not over yet" said Eduardo Buzzi, president of the Argentine Agrarian Federation. "We can't stand this level of taxes with so high costs". Furthermore Buzzi called for a quick implementation of the agreements reached which will also help "to re-establish and recover confidence in the announcements". Last year, the country's farm groups stopped selling grain and blocked highways during a four-month protest against tax increases and a ban on shipping beef abroad. The move prompted food shortages and higher consumer prices, pushing President Cristina Kirchner's popularity rating to its lowest ever. "We have had several announcements but what we need is that these announcements will be implemented quickly," said Mario Llambias, president of the Argentine Rural Confederation. "We hope these accords will take place." Hugo Biolcati president of the Argentine Rural Society said the agreement "are steps in the right direction" and described the discussions as "serious". He praised Mrs. Kirchner's participation in the talks because "we finally had the knowledgeable officials (such as Agriculture Secretary Carlos Cheppi) and the authority to support him with the President's authority. This is coherent". President Cristina Kirchner also invited the farm leaders to join the Social and Economic Council proposed by the government with the participation of all sectors from the economy to analyze and help address the global slowdown. The government team was made up of Agriculture minister Carlos Cheppi; Production Minister Debora Girogi; Interior Minister Carlos Randazzo. Farmers were represented by the leaders of the four most important agriculture organizations.