Argentine food strike suspended for talks

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Argentina's four main farm groups lifted a 16-day strike Friday afternoon to make way for negotiations with government officials over a controversial hike in export taxes on soybeans and sunflowers.

In their announcement, the farmers said they'd stay in a "state of alert" and keep their forces mobilized on roadsides, presumably to restart protests if negotiations fail.

The farmers have blocked highways all over the 40 million-person country and withheld much of their production to protest the export tax hike, which went into effect March 11. Shortages of meat, eggs and other goods have been reported in markets across the country.

Speaking Thursday night, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner accused the farmers of refusing to share rising profits with the rest of the country but said she'd negotiate with them if the strike were lifted.

Farmers argue that government price controls and export bans designed to lower inflation have cut into their profits. Moreover, they charge, the government hiked the export taxes without consulting them.

Thousands of the farmers' supporters have filled streets throughout the country over the week to show solidarity.

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