Farmers protests marked by drought and political tensions

The Argentine Agrarian Federation (FAA), an entity that groups farmers from across the country, held a protest in Santa Fe demanding measures amid a historic drought.

“We made demands that had not been met,” said FAA head Carlos Achetoni. According to him, the recent AR$5 billion package against the drought announced by Economy Minister Sergio Massa and Agriculture Secretary José Bahillo was insufficient. 

“They revealed a lack of public policies for the sector,” Achetoni said.

The protest, which the FAA called an “assembly”, started  at 10:00 and took place on the Rosario-Buenos Aires route near the town of Villa Constitución. They demanded a unified exchange rate, that is, a devaluation of the peso. They also asked for a global tax reform, the revoking of export duties, multi-risk insurance, and a “historical reparation” for local economies.

“[Local economies] are the engine for employment the same way the Pampas farmlands are the engine for international currency income,” Achetoni said during the protest.

The leaders of several associations joined FAA’s request for the assembly, which took place in the back of a truck. They included Jorge Chemes, head of Rural Argentine Confederations (CRA), Nicolás Pino, from the Argentine Rural Society (SRA), and Elvio Laucirica from CONINAGRO.

The FAA press release denounced the government’s “ineptitude or deliberate decision” to generate public policies for small and medium farmers. 

“In many areas, for the last two or three years there has been the added punishment of severe weather conditions, such as droughts, floods, frost, and hail, which have deepened this crisis, leading to the disappearance of producers”, they added.

Last Friday, Achetoni met with Bahillo and Santa Fe Governor Omar Perotti. The FAA head deemed the meeting as “repetitive”. 

“We leave in shock because the countryside lives in agony and nobody is saving us,” Achetoni said.

Two weeks ago, the Buenos Aires grains exchange said in a report that Argentina’s drought-stricken crops could bring in 23% fewer export dollars this season versus a year earlier.

Patricia Bullrich, president of the PRO opposition party, held a meeting with the farmer entities to listen to their demands before the protest started and tweeted in support of the assembly.

“Only if we remove the weight over it, the countryside will be one of the engines that takes this country forward,” she said. Sources close to her told that she did not participate in the protest since Bullrich did not want to “invade an area that belongs to the civil society,” but reunited with the farmers “since most of them sympathize” with the opposition leader.

Peronism and farmers have not seen eye to eye since at least 2008. In March that year, Vice President Cristina Kirchner —then president— tried to pass a “mobile export duty” bill for soybean exports and the farmer associations started a four-month protest that included roadblocks and a lockout.

This is the first protest against the government since Massa, who has historically had a more conciliatory relationship with these entities, took office as economy minister in President Alberto Fernández’s peronist administration.

The Agriculture Secretariat declined to comment about the protest.


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