Page last updated at 03:37 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 04:37 UK

Argentine farmers continue strike

President Cristina Fernandez - 31/3/2008
President Fernandez urged farmers to end their blockades

Argentine farmers have said they will continue a crippling 19-day strike after rejecting a series of new government measures as insufficient.

President Cristina Fernandez announced rebates on new export taxes for small- and medium-size farmers but refused to rescind a controversial tax rise.

She asked farmers to "please" lift roadblocks that have caused shortages of products and blocked key exports.

Farmers are furious over new export levies of up to 45% in some cases.

Farmers said their strike would continue until Wednesday at least, but a leader of one of the country's biggest farm groups said dairy products would be allowed to go to market.

No compromise

"I ask you once again to please let the trucks through and think of yourselves as part of the country not the owners of the country," President Fernandez said on Monday in a nationally televised appeal, her third such speech on the issue.

With Economy Minister Martin Lousteau, she announced transport subsidies for farms that are far from markets, some tax rebates for small and medium-sized farms and credit plans for dairy farmers.

But there was no compromise on the key sticking point of a new sliding scale of tax export taxes that would raise levies in some cases up to 45%.

After her speech, the leaders of the four main striking farm groups said on television that the government's offer was insufficient but that they were open to further negotiations.

The farmers briefly halted their action on Friday but resumed the blockades after talks failed to produce a breakthrough.

Some growers working on small- to medium-sized farms say the taxes will reduce their income significantly and complain that they receive no state help.

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

She has refused to negotiate with the strikers until the farmers' strike is stopped.

This is fast becoming the biggest crisis that she has faced since taking over the presidency, says the BBC's Daniel Schweimler in the capital, Buenos Aires.

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

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

video and audio news
President Cristina Fernandez calls for the strike to end

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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