Page last updated at 23:15 GMT, Friday, 28 March 2008

Argentine farmers halt tax strike

Argentina President Cristina Fernandez on 27 March 2008
President Fernandez is facing her biggest test since taking office

Farmers in Argentina have suspended a crippling strike called in protest at rises in export taxes on farm products.

A farmers' spokesman said the 16-day protest - which included roadblocks and caused food shortages - had been halted to allow talks with the government.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner refused to negotiate with the stikers until the action was stopped.

She says the taxes will redistribute wealth, but farmers say they and their communities will be hit hard.

'State of alert'

Pedro Apaolaza, a leader of one of the four striking groups, told AP news agency the protesters would remain on "a state of alert and mobilised" ready to resume roadblocks.

"What we've decided is to allow free transit on the roads while these talks go on," he said.

Striking farmers in Cordoba, Argentina. File photo
Farmers are angry at a rise of up to 45% in export taxes

As well as causing meat and dairy shortages in the shops, the strike has hit exports and triggered clashes in the capital Buenos Aires.

Protesters have stopped lorries carrying farm produce, either turning them back or dumping the goods on the road, while trade at grain and cattle markets was also disrupted.

Farmers are furious over the government's decision to introduce a new sliding scale of export taxes, raising levies in some cases up to 45%.

President Fernandez - who took office in December last year, succeeding her husband, Nestor - says the taxes are a means to raise badly-needed revenue, curb inflation and guarantee domestic supplies.

Argentina, a leading exporter of beef, corn, soya oil and soybeans, has benefited from the recent global surge in commodity prices.

Argentine leader warns strikers
28 Mar 08 |  Americas
Argentine farm tax crisis worsens
27 Mar 08 |  Americas
Q&A: Argentina farm protests
27 Mar 08 |  Business
Country profile: Argentina
12 Dec 07 |  Country profiles

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