Confirmed: farm-govt talks break down

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Renewed protests by Argentine farmers angry over a grains export tax are "imminent" after talks with the government broke down, a farm leader said on Wednesday.

"It's very likely that another protest will be starting within hours," said Eduardo Buzzi, the president of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, one of the country's four leading farm groups.

Farmers threw up roadblocks and halted sales of grains and beef in March after the government introduced a new sliding-scale of export taxes that substantially raised the levies on soy and sunseed products.

The strike, which caused food shortages and disrupted grains shipments, was suspended after farmers agreed to negotiate but weeks of talks hit an impasse on Tuesday after Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernandez denied the government had agreed to alter the tax system.

Following Tuesday's negotiations, farm leaders said officials had acknowledged the tax system had problems that could be modified.

But Fernandez later denied it, and on Wednesday he lashed out at farm leaders as hundreds of farmers gathered in roadside protests.

"This is an extortion mechanism," Fernandez told Radio 10. "I'm not going to work with a group of people who believe the best way to resolve things is blocking roads and causing food shortages."

Argentina is a leading global supplier of corn, wheat, soy and beef.

The hike pinned export taxes to international prices, raising levies on soy products to about 40 percent at current prices from a fixed rate of 35 percent.

The export taxes are a key part of the economic program of President Cristina Fernandez and help the center-left government to maintain budget surpluses and keep the currency weak to stimulate exports.

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