Leaders of Argentina's troubled farm sector promised to resume grain exports Monday after ending a strike that has dealt a blow to the economy and raised tensions with the government.
"It would be convenient for us to resume grain sales at midnight Sunday," Eduardo Buzzi, a strike leader, told reporters. "We have to give dialogue a chance to develop."
The almost 90-day strike had been called to oppose taxes on soya exports at a time when prices on the international market are soaring.
President Cristina Kirchner has refused to roll back the 13-percent tariff hike on soybean exports she announced in March. Farmers rejected her offer to cap the sliding tax scale on the product.
But Hugo Biolcati, vice president at the influential Argentine Rural Union, said international grain sales would resume early Monday just as sales of animal products did on Friday. He did not divulge terms of any deal.
Some non-union activists, however, warned that they might not stop the strike action because the government still had not committed to opening negotiations.
The strike took a turn for the worse earlier this week when truckers' unions in four provinces, including Buenos Aires, parked their rigs on some 60 roads to protest the tax they say is handing them crippling losses.
The blockade has dealt a heavy blow to the country's tourism sector. The Federation of Food Salesmen and Hotel Owners says it caused losses of US$23.5 million in the first 21 days of the labor conflict.
The strike has also affected overall consumer spending. In some small towns in Argentina's heartland, sales dropped 15-20 percent because of the halt on grain deliveries, the Argentine Chamber of Commerce reported.
The confrontation has deepened divisions between Argentina's upper and middle classes - including many well-off farmers - and the poor, swollen by the country's 2001 financial collapse, who overwhelmingly support Kirchner.
The president on Thursday slammed farm owners for ignoring the plight of ordinary citizens.
"Show me the worker, store owner or businessman who can afford to stop working for 90 days," she said in a speech.
"Only those who have accumulated a great income and a great capital can do it," she added, referring to many large farm owners who have grown rich with the spiraling price of commodities.
Argentina is one of the biggest food producers in the world, leading with exports of soybean oil. It is also the second biggest corn exporter, after the United States, and the fifth biggest wheat exporter.