Argentina says near deal with Monsanto on soy inspections

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s government is close to striking a deal with Monsanto Co over the inspection of shipments of genetically modified soybeans, an agriculture ministry official said on Monday.

A Monsanto logo is pictured in the company headquarters in Morges, Switzerland, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Monsanto and President Mauricio Macri’s government have been at loggerheads since March over the company’s request to have exporting companies inspect soybean shipments to make sure farmers paid royalties on soybean seed technology.

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, threatened to suspend launches of future soybean technologies in Argentina, a move that could limit output of the country’s main cash crop.

Argentina, the world’s No. 1 exporter of soymeal livestock feed, relies heavily on Monsanto’s genetic technology to produce soybeans.

The government is now analyzing Monsanto’s proposed method of inspection, said Guillermo Bernaudo, chief of Argentina’s Ministry of Agri-industry.

“It’s basically impossible not to have a deal. It’s a matter of days,” he told Reuters.

A Buenos Aires-based Monsanto spokeswoman said talks were ongoing but no deal was finalized.

The conflict is playing out just over six months into Macri’s term, after he won the presidency on promises of freeing Argentina’s economy from years of heavy-handed trade and currency controls.

Farmers have urged the government to make a deal with the company though they object to private exporters playing an enforcement role.

Monsanto struck deals with individual exporting companies to police royalty collection in neighboring Brazil.

Additional reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman