Tension between farmers and Argentine government returns after minister change

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The tense relationship between Argentina’s powerful agricultural sector and the center-left Peronist government re-emerged on Friday, days after sharp economic changes that appeared to have improved a vital link for the country’s finances.

Producers in Argentina, one of the world’s biggest food exporters, staged an anti-government trade strike in July to demand tax cuts, although this did not affect shipments.

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The arrival this week of the experienced politician Sergio Massa to the Ministry of Economy indicated a better relationship between the government and a sector that is the main generator of foreign exchange.

But the statements made by the newly appointed Secretary of Agriculture, Juan Bahillo, who suggested that producer associations make their political party sympathies public, upset the sector, historically at odds with Peronism.

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“Secretary Bahillo’s concern conspires against individual liberties… Ideology is not the problem. Inefficiency and prejudice, yes,” said the Argentine Rural Confederations (CRA), one of the country’s four major agricultural associations.

“We will work to the letter so that the producers’ party grows, consolidates and asserts itself. The government must have this same interest because the Argentine future depends on the growth of the field and its foreign exchange”, he added.

Rural leaders are expected to meet in the coming days with new economic officials, who are aggressively seeking foreign exchange from new exports to stabilize domestic financial markets.

Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of soybean meal and oil and the second largest exporter of corn, but increases in local food prices pose a dilemma for the government in a country with poverty rates of nearly 40%.

Source: CNN Brasil

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