Argentine farmers declare strike a success

Argentina farmers said Monday a strike against the government's economic policies had all but shut down food production in Argentina, which counts among the world's biggest producers.

The strike, which got underway on Saturday and is scheduled to last through Wednesday, was backed by farmers across the country, according to strike organizers.

Farmers want a change in the way grain exports are taxed. They are seeking a progessive system whereby larger exports volumes are hit at a higher rate.

As a result of the strike, almost no livestock has been bought or sold for the past few days, and virtually no grain readied for export, farm organizers said.

"It had a high participation rate -- we would estimate about 95 percent," Cristian Roca, head of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, told AFP.

"By that measure, it's a success," said Roca, whose group represents small and mid-sized farmers.

The strike, seen as a bid to tighten the screws on the government of President Cristina Kirchner, is the most recent of several work stoppages in recent months against federal economic reforms.

The union said it hopes to open a talks with Kirchner, but Agriculture Minister Norberto Yahuar, in comments to one newspaper, dismissed the strikers as seeking a "dialogue based on chaos."

Yahuar said the unions are attempting to sow discord ahead of October legislative elections.

In 2008, a similar strike against Kirchner over a plan to impose taxes on grain exports lasted 128 days, leading to massive food shortages, and saw her popularity drop dramatically.

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