UPDATE 3-Argentine farmers continue sales strike despite new corn export policy

(Adds official export data)

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Argentine farmers said on Monday they would continue their ban on selling crops despite the government's decision to amend the corn export suspension that has triggered a sales strike in the South American grains powerhouse.

The government replaced the two-month export suspension with a temporary daily limit of 30,000 tonnes of corn that can be sold into the international market. But the country's main farm groups said they objected to the new policy as well.

"For us, it's the same," said the president of the Argentine Rural Society (SRA), Daniel Pelegrina, in an interview with the local news site Canal Rural, on Twitter.

He said the SRA would continue the ban on sales.

The Argentine Rural Confederation (CRA) announced, also by way of Twitter, that it would continue the sales strike.

"This kind of government intervention in the market alters the rules and undermines growers' confidence, generating uncertainty about next season's sowing," CRA said in a tweet.

The 30,000-tonne daily cap on export sales, announced at midnight by the farm ministry when the growers strike began, replaces the government's previous plan to suspend international corn shipments from the world's No. 3 supplier until March.

That original policy was announced on Dec. 30. It remained unclear on Monday how long the daily export limit will last.

The government says it is trying to control domestic food prices amid a long recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CIARA-CEC chamber of Argentine agricultural export companies had no immediate comment on the new corn policy.

The agriculture ministry said the new 30,000-tonne daily limit on corn exports would guarantee domestic supply and cushion local prices against price fluctuations in international markets. This, it said, provided enough stability to allow it to call off the export suspension.

Farmers were not having it.

"Grains cargo ships can carry up to 45,000 tonne per loading, so exporting 30,000 tonnes a day would be ridiculous," said David Hughes, a soy and corn grower in the breadbasket province of Buenos Aires.

According to Agriculture Ministry export data, sales of 1.13 million tonnes of 2019/20 corn had been registered to be shipped out of the country in January and February. The volume of corn stocks from the 2018/19 season registered to ship in the first two months of 2020 was 2.77 million tons.

Hughes and other farmers say there is no shortage of corn in the country. "Argentina has an ending year corn inventory higher than in the past years, and much higher than the domestic demand," he said in a text message. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chizu Nomiyama)

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