Thousands of farmers stage anti-tax protest in Argentina’s capital

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Thousands of Argentine farmers demonstrated in Buenos Aires on Saturday against President Alberto Fernandez, whose policy of containing food prices to curb runaway inflation has been criticized by the agricultural sector.

Argentina is one of the world’s leading food exporters and the sector is key to Latin America’s third largest economy.

Protesters waved Argentinian flags and drove tractors down a road outside the Casa Rosada presidential palace in the capital. It is rare for farmers to demonstrate in Buenos Aires, as they usually hold such protests in rural areas.

Fernandez intervened in the grain and meat sector, at one time limiting the amount of meat producers could export in order to prioritize domestic supply.

Protesters held signs that read: ‘We pay for roads, but instead we get swamps’ and ‘reduce taxes’.

They also published their demands for tax cuts in a letter to the government which was read out at the protest and later provided to the media.

“We have a simple request: we are no longer willing to fund the rope that is being used to choke us,” the letter read.

The demonstration was not organized by a specific organization.

Taxes rose under former president Mauricio Macri, a conservative, and continued to rise under Fernandez, a leftist. A 12% tax is levied on exports of wheat and maize, which rises to 33% in the case of exports of soybeans, flour and cooking oil.

Argentina has struggled with extremely high inflation for years – it was hovering around 50% in 2021 – making food policy a particularly delicate task for the government.

Over the past year, farmers have also protested limits on meat exports, which Fernandez eventually relaxed.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath and Walter Bianchi; Editing by Paul Simao)