Four farmers' unions began halting the marketing of grains and livestock for four days starting Monday, in rejection of an increase from 30 percent to 33 percent in duties on exports of soybeans and derivatives, in the first agricultural strike against the government of Alberto Fernandez.
The move is in response to the second raise in duties under the Peronist leader's presidency. Four days after taking office, Fernandez raised levvies from 24.7 percent to 30 percent, citing the "serious situation that public finances are going through.”
The decision to go on strike was announced last Thursday, March 5, by the producers of the association Confederaciones Rurales de Argentina (CRA) and later ratified and adhered to by the Federación Agraria Argentina (FAA), the Sociedad Rural and the Confederación Intercooperativa Agropecuaria (Coninagro).
The demonstration's leaders saythe measure of force "does not endanger social peace" and that it does not include "tractor-trailers" or roadblocks. The increase in retentions was confirmed on March 3 by Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Minister Luis Basterra, and covers soy and its derivatives (flour and oils).
The ‘Mesa de Enlace’, which is made up of representatives four largest agricultural employers in the country, declared their disagreement with the increase in the tax burden, arguing that "once again it will be the countryside that will pay the debts and costs of a crisis" that it did not generate.
The CRA said the increase marks "the fragile situation to which the most productive, competitive and federal sector is exposed and which generates genuine employment in Argentina.”
"This will only generate a lower production that we will see reflected in the next campaign with a decrease in the intention of planting and a clear reduction in the technological package to be invested," the communication added.
According to officials quoted by the Clarín newspaper, the president himself has decided not to reopen negotiations with the agricultural employers, claiming that they have already done so. "They always want to win,” he was reported as saying.
Export taxes were the focus of a severe conflict between the rural sector and the government in 2008, when Fernández was Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's Cabinet chief.
Argentina is one of the world's leading exporters of soybeans and soy derivatives. This is also its main export, ahead even of beef.
The soybean sector will be the only one within the agricultural activity that will face the tax increase, since maize, wheat and sorghum grains as well as dairy and meat will maintain their current rate.
Meanwhile, export duties on sunflower, including oil, will be reduced from 12 percent to 7 percent, while those on maize flour will be reduced from 9 percent to 5 percent, and those on wheat flour will be reduced from 9 percent to 7 percent.
Other items with a drop in taxes are polished rice, peanuts and fish, according to data from the Economy Ministry.