April 28, 2008 [LINK / comment]
Farmers protest in Argentina
As world market prices for foodstuffs have soared in recent months, tensions have risen in Argentina, which is a major agricultural exporter. The government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is in a quandary over the food price issue, as farmers contend with budget-squeezed consumers. True to her (Peronista) party's populist roots, she has chosen to raise taxes on exports of soybeans and other products, for the third time in the last six months. In response, farmers declared a three-week strike and put up roadblocks in various parts of the country. The ostensible purpose of the tax hikes was to keep local food prices low, but there is an added political benefit:
That revenue, she said, would allow the government to redistribute the agricultural sector's disproportionate wealth to the people most vulnerable to price hikes. SOURCE: Washington Post.
In other words, it would transfer wealth from the sector that produces the most desired commodity (soybeans and grain) to the sectors that are least productive. That, in a nutshell, is why most Latin American countries remain stuck in poverty or relative backwardness. A temporary truce will end on May 2, and further confrontations are likely in this country with a long record of chaos and instability.
For most Argentine people, eating meat at three meals a day is considered a basic entitlement, much like consuming gasoline is considered a birthright by many Americans. So while we are stuck in the mud on energy policy, Argentina is stuck in the mud on food policy.