>Striking Farmers

>I’m finally beginning to understand the story behind the strike that’s been going on across the country in the last few weeks. There is no shortage of opportunities to hear the news, but I guess I spend too much time sitting in my house working on a computer and connecting to the States and not enough time reading the Argentine newspapers or having conversations on the street. My step-father Fred even experienced the traffic associated with the strikers blocking a main highway but we still didn’t understand the whole story.

Now I’ve pieced together the threads with the helpful perspectives of the lady who owns the lavandería (laundromat) down the street and Mari, the woman who cleans our house. The government is imposing higher tariffs on grain exports, much of which go to China. Argentina competes with Brazil and the US for those Chinese dollars and it’s a cut-throat market. Argentina is the world’s 2nd largest corn exporter and 3rd for soybeans. President Kirchner has many ideas for how that tax revenue could be used, but many don’t think it will help those who need it most, including the (huge) agricultural sector. In protest, many farmers and transporters (truckers) went on a 16-day strike. With no truckers trucking, the shelves at stores grew emptier and emptier. Prices for meat (and milk, and other foods) are already very high here, and it’s hard to imagine an Argentine meal without meat. Last night I went to the carnecería to shop for tonight’s parilla and the butcher reminded me to get all I’d need for the weekend, as he expected to be sold out by noon today. At a market this morning, Chris said the sale of milk was limited to two boxes, sugar to two bags, and no meat could be had.

Last night the strike may have ended, good news for everyone except the cattle of the country. English accounts of the story from this Al Jazeera (!) source and the BBC report.

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