July 15, 2020 / 8:53 PM / 19 days ago

Exclusive: Argentina farm minister says no plan to hike grains export taxes

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina does not plan to increase grains export taxes despite the government’s need for revenue as the coronavirus pushes the country into a deep recession this year, Agriculture Minister Luis Basterra told Reuters on Wednesday.

Farmers in the vast Pampas grains belt had worried that the cash-strapped government, embroiled in a complicated restructuring of $65 billion in sovereign bonds, might raise taxes on international shipments of wheat, corn and soy.

Asked if the government was planning to increase those levies, Basterra said: “No. We have to deal with our need for dollars by increasing production, not by increasing taxes. We need growers to increase planting area and increase investment in order to increase crop yields.”

Basterra spoke on the sidelines of an event in Buenos Aires.

Argentina is a major wheat, corn and soybean exporter as well as the world’s No. 1 supplier of soymeal livestock feed used to fatten hogs, poultry and cattle from Europe to Southeast Asia.

Wheat exports from Argentina are currently taxed at 12%, corn at 12%, soybeans at 33% and soymeal also at 33%.

The government is gasping for revenue as the Argentine economy is expected by private analysts to shrink by about 12% this year, pressured by a lockdown that began in March against the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by Hugh Bronstein in Buenos Aires; Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Matthew Lewis

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