Argentine farmers are threatening a one-day national strike if the government does not lift a ban on beef exports.

Producers are furious because they say the government has not kept to its side of an agreement reached on 6 April to gradually lift the ban on beef exports, in return for a 20%-25% reduction in wholesale and retail prices.

The ban was originally imposed on 8 March because the domestic price of beef jumped by around 25% last year and looked set to continue at that pace this year.

The government blamed the increases on the record level of exports.

Luciano Miguens, president of the Sociedad Rural, one of Argentina’s main farmers’ organisations, said:

“Beef producers feel persecuted.

The retail and wholesale price of beef is coming down, but the government will not re-open exports.

They should at least allow producers to meet their [top quality] Hilton quota of exports to the European Union.

Hilton has always been vital to beef exports.”

The main farmers’ groups are proposing a one-day national strike on 25 May if the government does not lift the export ban.

Argentina exported 3.97bn pesos (£709m) worth of beef in 2005, an increase of 40% on 2004.

Mr Miguens added:

“The ban has cost producers more than 644m pesos (£115m) in lost sales.

They are really suffering.”

Last Friday (28 April), Quickfood, one of the country’s oldest meat packers, laid off 370 employees, blaming the export controls.

In April, the government also set price limits for 12 different cuts of beef.

For example, the maximum wholesale price of fore rib is fixed at 5.2 pesos/kg (93p/kg), with the maximum retail price fixed at 6.55 pesos/kg (£1.17/kg).

Franciso Mujica, a beef producer in Ayacucho in Buenos Aires province, said:

“The accord with the government is ridiculous.

It’s not the way to find a solution to the problem of beef prices.

Prices set themselves.”

The government says it will not relax the ban until the reductions are felt on the high street.