Farm resumes protest with more threats than facts

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Truce ends today in Argentina and farm will start demonstrating again in roads tomorrow. This decision was taken by the four farming entities, which will carry out mass meetings, ceremonies and demonstrations across the entire country. They have promised that this time neither roadblocks nor shortage will be observed, as it happened in previous protest that extended for 21 days. Farmers do not want to lose urban population support, crucial to sustain their complaints. This is the result of a 30-day difficult negotiation between government and farm, which only produced vows of freeing steak and wheat exports, something that should start today. Farming sector insists that government should lift sliding-scale export tariff system imposed on March 11. Government would finally accept talking about the matter. So, it has called presidents of these entities to a meeting, which will be carry out next Tuesday. If talks prove favourable, changes will come after May 25.

Argentine farm groups said on Thursday they would restart protests along highways, but not roadblocks, on Saturday, after a month of on-and-off talks with the government yielded only partial agreements on farm policy.

Farm leaders made conflicting announcements about when protests would restart, after meetings with their rank-and-file around the country, but they appeared to agree that protests would involve gatherings at crossroads and leafleting.

The four big agricultural groups are expected to make a coordinated statement on Friday.

Farmers led a three-week strike against a tax hike on soy exports in March, but agreed to lift the protest for talks during April. The truce ends on Friday.

The strike included hundreds of roadblocks and caused a political crisis for President Cristina Fernandez, blocking the country's huge grains exports and emptying meat shelves in stores.

Eduardo Buzzi, head of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, or FAA, one of the four main farm groups that spearheaded the strike, took a tough stance on Thursday.

"The truce is over. From now on we start a mobilization campaign," he said.

Luciano Miguens, president of the Argentine Rural Society (SRA), told reporters he planned to recommend to his members not to go on strike again.

"The final decision rests with our members. But I don't think it does any good to disrupt the lives of ordinary Argentines, who have supported us throughout this," he said.

The head of yet another group, Coninagro, said farmers would definitely not protest along highways until at least Tuesday, when another meeting with the government is scheduled.

The government has not agreed to the farmers' main petition, which is to suspend a new sliding-scale export tax system on oil seeds. The Tuesday talks will focus on that issue.

The government agreed on Wednesday to normalize beef and wheat exports, other key farmer demands.

Argentina is one of the world's biggest exporters of soybeans, wheat, corn and beef.

Government officials said on Wednesday that beef exports should return to normal in the coming days. Officials have held up shipments at port since early April.

The government has kept the wheat export registry shut for months to ensure domestic supplies and keep prices down on basic foodstuffs like bread and pasta.

The reopening of exports has been repeatedly delayed. Government officials said on Wednesday that reopening would be difficult because farm groups were not clear how much wheat was available for export.

The new oilseed tax mechanism was the last straw for Argentine farmers, who had been angered by a string of government policies aimed at fighting inflation, such as price controls and the export restrictions on wheat and beef.

Such measures are defended by the center-left government as a way to redistribute the windfall of soaring global food prices and keep down the cost of everyday staples in a country where about a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

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