Three insufficient measures launched to calm down farmers

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Argentine president Cristina de Kirchner will talk on Monday again about the farm. She will announce measures based on the following scheme: removing registers on exports, granting reimbursements to farmers and reducing freights with subsidies. The intention is to correct mistakes of economy minister Martín Lousteau after announcing adjustable export tariffs. One can tell in advance that measures won't satisfy farmers. Argentina is again on tenterhooks with 72 decisive hours, which impact is already exceeding economic issues.

The Argentine government will meet with farmers on Monday to try to resolve an 18-day tax revolt that has caused food shortages, halted grain exports and become a major political crisis.

A top official said the government would negotiate even though growers have not met conditions for talks by lifting roadblocks that have held back grains and meat from ports in Argentina, a top world supplier of soy, corn, wheat and beef.

"The president already said it clearly: the strike is an obstacle to negotiations," Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernandez told Clarin newspaper.

But he also said the government recognizes that talks will be drawn out and "we will be waiting for them on Monday afternoon to continue talking."

The agriculture crisis has become a major challenge to center-left President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who took office in December and on March 11 decreed a new soy export tax system without prior talks with farmers.

The country's four big agro-industrial groups briefly suspended their protest on Friday. But after late-night talks got nowhere, they revived roadblocks on Saturday, holding back from market all farm goods except for dairy products.

The farm groups said they would attend talks on Monday, but would not consider suspending the protest until Wednesday.

WHAT TO DO WITH WINDFALL PROFITS?

Argentina, a land of vast, fertile plains, has hugely benefited from high international prices for commodities. But the country is torn over how to distribute windfall profits from soy and other crops.

"It's hard to understand that this crisis is happening when the Argentine economy is offering, perhaps for everyone, an exceptional opportunity," Clarin newspaper columnist Eduardo van der Kooy wrote.

The new sliding-scale tax on soy exports, which increases levies at current soy prices, was the last straw for farmers already angry over government limits on exports to try to control domestic food prices.

Protesting farmers said if they are going to lift their roadblocks, the government must respond by suspending the new grains export tax system for 90 days so that the two sides can embark on a lengthy discussion of agriculture policy.

President Fernandez says she will not roll back the tax, which she has strongly defended as a protection against inflation and a way to redistribute wealth in a country where nearly a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

The more the president has stood by the tax, the more farmers have dug in their heels and tested what critics call her authoritarian style.

When she took office in December, business leaders hoped Fernandez would try to reach consensus with them over policies instead of following in the footsteps of her husband and predecessor, ex-President Nestor Kirchner, who imposed price controls on a wide array of goods.

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