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Argentine beef producers say talks with government to intensify over export halt

BUENOS AIRES, June 3 (Reuters) - Argentine meat producers will intensify talks with the government aimed at lifting the one-month suspension of beef exports that was declared in mid-May, the country’s Agroindustrial Council (CAA) said in a statement.

The suspension is aimed at lowering domestic inflation, but cattle ranchers disagree with the measure and, in protest, called a halt to livestock sales that lasted through Wednesday. Farm leaders say the sales strike may resume to include grains sales if progress is not made in talks with the government.

According to the CAA statement, Dardo Chiesa, the coordinator of the Mesa de las Carnes - an association that brings together dozens of entities in the sector - met Wednesday evening with President Alberto Fernandez.

“The representatives of the CAA agreed with the national authorities to deepen the search for long, medium and short-term consensual policies to correct the situation by promoting the supply of food to meet both domestic and export market demand,” the CAA said in the statement.

It said Fernandez “expressed the need for a quick solution and understanding for domestic supply, in order to lift the export suspension measure.”

Argentina, whose economy is in recession, has had very high inflation for years. According to official data, the country accumulated a 17.6% increase in consumer prices in the first four months of the year and a 46.3% rise in the last 12 months.

With congressional elections looming at the end of the year, beef prices are a sensitive political issue in a country where grilling meat is considered something of a national pastime.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, between January and April Argentina exported 28.9% of the 278,593 tonnes of beef that the country produced. Argentina is the world’s No. 5 meat exporter, with most of its shipments destined for China.

Reporting by Maximilian Heath, writing by Hugh Bronstein

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