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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Argentina's president wants to keep citizens fed but she's between a rock and a hard place
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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Argentina's president wants to keep citizens fed but she's between a rock and a hard place

what's happening in argentina is a microcosm of the crisis that's threatening food supplies, particularly for the most vulnerable, throughout the world...

the push to biofuels has caused, in argentina as in many other places, a massive rush to clear uncultivated land (driving through the argentine pampa, there are massive fires every few kilometers where cleared natural vegetation is being burned) for soy production, and an equally massive shift to producing soy in lieu of other food crops... a lot of the big players (most notably cargill, the biggest privately-held company in the world that most people have never heard of) are adding vast chunks of land to their already vast holdings, leaving global agricultural production in ever fewer hands... cargill already owns most of its own world-wide distribution network - ports, storage facilities, ships, barges, railroad cars - and that vertical integration, from seed to soil to harvest to shipment to mill, insures a virtual monopolistic control...

the consequences of this is that world food and agricultural commodity prices are soaring world-wide, and national leaders, like cristina fernandez de kirchner, are acutely aware that their citizens, particularly the poor, are at great risk of not being able to afford to eat... thus the export tax increases on soy and similar taxes on rice that have recently been levied in countries such as thailand and vietnam, and on wheat, corn, rice, and soybeans in china in an effort to keep food in the country instead of being exported...

argentina is an agricultural powerhouse, but its farmers, like the rest of its citizens, are fed up with government interference and have been for some time, and their traditional show of frustration is a strike, usually in the form of blockading roads and interfering with the flow of commerce... that's precisely what we've been seeing in the past few weeks after cristina announced the increase in agricultural export taxes...

Almost three weeks of roadblocks by farmers have caused food shortages, paralyzed grain exports from agricultural powerhouse Argentina and turned into a major political conflict for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The center-left government said it would give small farmers a rebate on new, higher taxes for soy and sunflower seed exports, as well as other benefits such as compensation for transportation costs for small farmers far from markets.


But farm leaders said in a news conference they would continue protests that have blocked highways and held back farm goods since March 13, making beef, dairy, chicken and produce scarce in the capital.

here's cristina's dilemma...
The president said on Monday it was important for Argentina to make sure soy did not crowd out other crops that are important for the domestic market.

She said the higher taxes on soy exports would help control inflation on food items in Argentina and added that unbridled soy production could deplete soil quality and has caused deforestation.

imho, she's trying to do the right thing in an impossible no-win situation...

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