9 de abril 2008 - 00:00

Demanding farm asks quick solution to silent government

Argentine farming entities hold that they are not consulted or heard. They say they are about to get tired and that they may even suspend truce. Cabinet chief Alberto Fernandez asked farmers to be patient. He was waiting for arrival of the travellers, economy minister Martin Lousteau and president Cristina de Kirchner. Some government backers believe it's necessary to strengthen stance against farm. The most bellicose farming sectors, conscious of damages caused by strike and of government impossibility to neutralize roadblocks, want to return to roads.

Farming entities are trying to quicken governments pace to face crisis arising from export tariff rise. Such pace is as agitated as the Olympic torch that will arrive in Buenos Aires on Friday.
Farming entities are trying to quicken government's pace to face crisis arising from export tariff rise. Such pace is as agitated as the Olympic torch that will arrive in Buenos Aires on Friday.
Argentine farmers could revive the strike they called off last week if the government fails to meet their demands, the head of a leading farm group said on Tuesday.

The three-week farm strike against a tax hike on soy exports left meat counters bare and disrupted the country's key grains exports. Farmers suspended the measure for 30 days last week in order to negotiate with the center-left government.

However, talks have yet to start and the delay has annoyed many farmers.

"The truce could end up being called off before then if there's no kind of response or the chance of progress," Pedro Apaolaza, president of the Carbap association, told local radio.

Carbap groups farmers in the provinces of Buenos Aires and La Pampa and is part of one of the four national associations that staged the 21-day strike.

Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernandez called for patience.

"We're going to meet and get to work. We've got to wait, get ourselves organized and then sit down ... There's not much point in making so much noise about the issue," he said.

The farmers' protest landed President Cristina Fernandez with her biggest political challenge since she succeeded her husband, Nestor Kirchner, to the presidency in December.

Farmers manned roadblocks to keep farm goods from reaching market, making beef scarce in a country where steak is an everyday staple. There were also shortages of dairy goods and vegetables, and grains exporters had to renege on contracts.

In an effort to ease the tension, the government announced a packet of measures such as tax rebates for small landholders, low-cost loans for machinery, and subsidies on transport costs for those based far from ports.

But farmers are anxious for negotiations to start.

The country's four main farm groups put out a joint statement late on Tuesday, asking to meet with President Fernandez "as soon as possible."

"We aim to contribute to building a society without exclusion, with equal opportunity and social equality, which is why we believe it's of vital importance that a sincere and profound dialogue be reestablished," the groups said.

Industry sources said that if the strike were revived in May, it would probably be directed specifically at the multimillion-dollar grains trade. Argentina is one of the world's top suppliers of soy, wheat, corn and beef.

Beef exports resumed their normal pace on Tuesday after the customs agency said companies had met requirements for additional information on shipments, which caused nearly a week of delays.

Corn exporters also have complained of customs-related hitches for their grain cargo.

Although some farm leaders showed impatience with the government, others were more cautious.

"Breaking the truce wouldn't be prudent, it wouldn't be constructive at a delicate moment like this one. We've got to stick to ... the 30 days," Eduardo Buzzi, president of the Agrarian Federation (FAA), said.

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