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Argentine Soy, Grain Sales Fall 81% on Farmers Strike

Soybean and cereals deliveries to Argentina’s largest ports fell 81 percent today as farmers withhold shipments to protest government export policies.

The number of trucks that arrived at ports located in the area surrounding the city of Rosario fell to 325 today from 1,682 a year earlier, the Rosario Cereals Exchange said on its website. Daily trading, which averaged 10,000 metric tons of soybeans last week, has ground to a halt since the strike started Jan. 17, South America’s largest exchange said.

The government of Nestor Kirchner, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s husband and predecessor, began curbing grain and meat exports in 2006 in a bid to lower local prices by boosting domestic supplies. Farmers went on strike for four months in 2008 to protest the policies, putting up roadblocks on highways throughout the Pampas agricultural zone and creating temporary food shortages in Buenos Aires.

Soybean futures for March delivery fell 1.75 cents, or 0.1 percent, to close at $14.115 a bushel as of 1:15 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade. Earlier in the day, the price rose as much as 1.1 percent.

Farmers are demanding that the government end export restrictions on grains, including wheat and corn. The government said earlier this month it would lift restrictions on wheat exports for the 2010-2011 crop, although it hasn’t said whether the move would be permanent or temporary.

Argentina’s four main farming groups said Jan. 12 that the government must “normalize” grains markets and let them trade freely. The government was not lifting restrictions only announcing “a quota,” Eduardo Buzzi, head of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, said at the time regarding the wheat export decision.

Argentina is the world’s second-largest exporter of corn, behind the U.S., and the third-largest exporter of soybeans, behind the U.S. and Brazil. Soybeans are the country’s biggest source of foreign-currency inflow.

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