Argentina opposition candidate asks grains farmers for fresh start

Credit: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, Aug 29 (Reuters) - The man widely expected to become Argentina's next president asked farmers from the country's key grains sector on Thursday to put aside their bitter differences with the government of his running mate, former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and move forward with him.

Opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez held talks with four major agriculture organizations at his campaign's offices in Buenos Aires in his first major meeting with the grains sector, which had a combative relationship with Fernandez de Kirchner.

"The restrictions that once existed on trade, on the freedom to export ... He said that this will not be part of their policy," Dardo Chiesa, leader of the Argentina's Rural Confederation (CRA), told reporters.

He was referring to the policies of Fernandez de Kirchner's government between 2007 and 2015, which included strict export limits on corn and wheat, of which Argentina is a major global supplier.

The tension between Fernandez de Kirchner and Argentina's grains sector, considered the engine of the economy, boiled over in 2008 when producers paralyzed trade for weeks through a strike to protest an increase in the export tax on soybean shipments.

"He said 'let's forget what happened, we have to talk,'" added Chiesa, who attended Thursday's meeting at Fernandez's offices along with the Argentina Rural Society (SRA), Argentina's association of rural producers CONINAGRO and the Argentine Agrarian Federation (FAA).

Fernandez's fresh-start request to farmers comes after the moderate Peronist garnered an overwhelming lead in the Aug. 11 primary, positioning himself to defeat pro-market President Mauricio Macri in the October election.

Argentina has been gripped by market turmoil over investor fears that the country could return to the interventionist policies of Fernandez de Kirchner.

Fernandez's meeting with farmers came days after he met with mining companies and governors from key mining provinces, assuring them he wanted to promote the flow of dollars into Argentina, without putting controls on taking money out.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Tom Brown)

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