Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina farmers in grain export quota strike

Protesting farm workers with tractors and Argentine flags gather beside a highway in the town of Oliva
Image caption Argentine farmers say they are missing out on high global food prices

Argentine farmers have halted sales of grain in a seven-day strike against government export limits.

The farmers say export quotas are stopping them taking advantage of high global demand and keeping domestic prices artificially low.

Argentina is one of the world's biggest grain exporters, and similar protests three years ago helped push global food prices to record highs.

But this strike is largely symbolic, as this year's harvest has not yet begun.

The farmers insist that withholding their crops for seven days will not cause shortages of bread in Argentina's cities, as mills have had plenty of warning and time to stock up.

Food price fears

Exports of wheat, maize and soy are not expected to be immediately affected.

But analysts say the protest, on top of hot, dry conditions in Argentina, will fuel fears that global food prices may be pushed higher.

The Argentine agricultural minister, Julian Dominguez, condemned the strike, but said he recognised that grain farmers were "not earning what they should be earning" for their crops.

The protest is a revival of a long-running dispute between farmers and the government of President Cristina Fernandez over agricultural policy.

The government says export quotas help keep inflation low and guarantee domestic food supplies.

But farmers' unions say the measure mainly benefits international commodity traders, and that Argentina is losing its global market share.

"We must improve and normalise grains trade in Argentina, especially for wheat and corn," said Eduardo Buzzi of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, one of four farmers' groups leading the protest.

"Farmers lose fortunes, and consumers pay more for their daily bread".

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