Chile: 8,000 protesters march for agricultural reform

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Chile: 8,000 protesters march for agricultural reform

It was a call to put the indifference to an end in Chile; the message of 8,000 people attached to the agriculture industry including small-scale growers, large farming companies and exporters, gathering in the VI Region town of Requinoa calling for recognition from President Sebastian Piñera.

See photos here.

With high exchange rates hindering exports, rising production costs tightening profit margins, labor shortages and a lack of long-term loans, Chile's agricultural industry leaders have been pushing the government to act to solve these problems for some time.

But yesterday these demands were taken one step further in Requinoa, with busloads of people carrying placards with statements like 'Mr. President don't kill agriculture, keep your promises' and other allusions to the death of the sector, showing their discontent in an attempt to trigger change amid a backdrop of rain and sunshine.

But the rain didn't dampen the mood of the protesters or their representatives like Fedefruta president Antonio Walker, who had a similar message.

"Don't leave agriculture to die - It is the products of farming that have made this country become what it is today," he said, highlighting that six million people work in the agricultural sector in Chile.

Walker criticized the government's lack of sensitivity towards agriculture, especially in relation to the Chilean peso's high value.

"Stop the indifference. We want to compete because we know how to compete. For this we need public policies that allow us to continue working to support the development of Chile and its people," Walker said to roaring applause.

"President, you taught us that to rescue the miners there had to be a plan A, B and C. Agriculture's plan A isn't working. We urgently invite you, that together between the government and the opposition, farmers and workers, and union leaders, we can find a plan B or C that can rescue Chilean agriculture.

"We want things to be done with the workers and not without the workers," added National Rural Confederation president Segundo Steilen.

Maule Sur representative Farrence Massow warned Chile was at risk of falling through the cracks as a 'monoexporter'.

Association of Exporters (ASOEX) president Ronald Bown said long-term policies needed to be put in place with coherent strategies, with greater willingness on the part of parliamentarians to reach an agreement.

He said among the new measures there would need to be an official state policy for agriculture, as well as a funding policy for agricultural development through the creation of an 'Agricultural Bank of Chile', which would include an economic stabilization fund of US$30 billion.

He also called for an amendment of the Constitutional Act of the Central Bank of Chile, and for the government to promote exchange security for non-copper industries.

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