Page last updated at 20:23 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 21:23 UK

Argentine farmers suspend protest

Protesting farmers at a rally in Gualeyguachu, Argentina, on 2 April 2008
Farmers say they have not backed down on their demands

Farmers in Argentina say they have suspended a three-week strike over export tax increases on soya and other agricultural produce.

The strike, which included road blocks in some areas, had halted agricultural exports and led to shortages of meat, milk and vegetables across the country.

The farmers say their truce will last for 30 days to see whether progress can be made with the government.

President Cristina Fernandez says the taxes are needed to control inflation.

The announcement comes a day after the president told 20,000 supporters, including trade unionists and human rights activists, that the last time farmers had imposed food shortages on Argentina was in February 1976.

That was a month before a military coup which she called "our nation's worst tragedy".

'Not consulted'

A presidential decree on 11 March raised export taxes on soybeans from 35% to 45%, as well as raising tax on exports of corn, wheat and beef.

The fight doesn't end here. Today we are simply taking a break to talk
Juan Echeverria, strike leader

President Fernandez has said the higher export taxes will help curb fast-rising domestic food prices.

But farmers say they were not consulted on the rises and that they do not allow rural producers to make a profit.

Strike leaders warned that they had not dropped their central demand that the rises be rescinded.

"The fight doesn't end here. Today we are simply taking a break to talk," one strike leader, Juan Echeverria, told the Reuters news agency.

Argentina is one of the world's top exporters of soya, wheat and beef, and any prolonged conflict would have a major effect on vital export earnings, says the BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires.

The farmers' strike is the biggest crisis faced by Ms Fernandez since she took office more than three months ago, succeeding her husband Nestor Kirchner, our correspondent adds.

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