Monsanto Cut From Argentine Cereals Register Following Bunge

Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, became the second company suspended this month from Argentina’s National Cereals Register for unpaid taxes. Mining companies including Barrick Gold Corp. are also being investigated, the tax agency said.

Monsanto was removed from the register because it owes $70 million in taxes for 2001-2005, an Argentine tax official, who asked not to be identified citing the agency’s communications policy, told reporters today in Buenos Aires.

Monsanto will pay a 25 percent tax rate during the suspension, up from 10 percent, the official said. Argentina’s tax agency, known as AFIP, is also investigating Barrick, the world’s biggest gold producer, Cargill Inc., the agricultural commodities trader that’s the largest closely held U.S. company, and Minera Sierra Grande SA, the local unit of Metallurgical Corp. of China Ltd.

Argentina’s tax agency last year said that four of the South American country’s 10 biggest exporters and cereals and soybean processors underpaid taxes. Cereal-producing companies use the register to expedite exporting and reduce export taxes. Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of soy oil, the second-largest of corn and third of soybeans.

Business Opportunities

Monsanto wasn’t counting on benefiting from the lower tax rate, and the suspension won’t affect business opportunities in Argentina, Kelli Powers, a company spokeswoman, said by telephone from headquarters in St. Louis. The suspension doesn’t prohibit Monsanto from doing business in Argentina, the company said today in an e-mailed statement.

Andy Lloyd, a Toronto-based spokesman for Barrick, declined to comment immediately when reached by e-mail. Massimo Macchiavello, a spokesman for Cargill’s Argentina operations, declined to comment from Buenos Aires.

Qifang Chen, who heads Minera Sierra’s Argentine operations, wasn’t available to take calls seeking comment, his translator Carmen Ho said from Rio Negro, Argentina.

Bunge Suspension

Bunge Ltd., Argentina’s second-biggest exporter, was suspended on Oct. 1 from the register because of unpaid income taxes since 2006, a tax official said. Bunge will be able to continue exporting, he told reporters at the time.

Monsanto, which sells corn seed in Argentina, was suspended from the register in February for taxes of 40 million pesos ($8.5 million), the official said. The company returned to the register after it paid in August, he said.

In a separate AFIP investigation, Monsanto may also owe $7 million in property taxes, the official said.

Monsanto fell 1.3 percent to close at $89.30 in New York. Barrick slid 0.5 percent to C$39.41 in Toronto.

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