By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine grain farmers and cattle ranchers protested on Friday in the town of San Nicolas in Buenos Aires province to voice complaints about export taxes and limits placed on beef shipments that critics say are bad for investment in the farm sector.
Thousands of farmers showed up in tractors and trucks and bearing Argentina’s pale blue and white flags, for the roadside demonstration, which was organized by the rural associations of Buenos Aires and La Pampa, or CARBAP, to coincide with Argentina’s Independence Day holiday.
“The rally is being held to raise the voice of citizens and farmers in favor of policies that support production and to call for an end to state intervention in the market,” CARBAP said.
The government did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Nicolas Pino, president of the Argentine Rural Society, said a lack of engagement with the powerful sector would harm all Argentines.
“Dialogue is the only way that we are going to get the country to move forward,” said
Argentina is the world’s No. 3 corn exporter and No. 1 supplier of soymeal livestock feed used to fatten hogs and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia.
It has in recent years been ranked the world’s No. 5 meat exporter, primarily to China.
Farm leaders are protesting the policies of center-left Peronist President Alberto Fernandez’ government of curtailing beef exports as a way of controlling inflation expected to hit 50% this year.
In June, the government placed a 30-day ban on meat exports and is flirting with increasing taxes or limiting exports of wheat and corn.
Omar Barchetta, a 56-year-old agricultural and livestock producer, said an export cap was better than June’s ban but was still doing significant damage.
“The opening up again of exports was a big relief, it allowed us to plan ahead more, so there has been a lot of disappointment and ultimately, financial loss (with export caps),” he told Reuters on Friday. “It essentially makes cattle ranching unprofitable.”
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