BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNN) -- Argentine farmers seething at export taxes on their crops resumed blockades of rural highways Monday after talks failed to end a 19-day-old strike that has halted grain exports and emptied supermarket shelves of meat.
The farmers launched their strike to protest a 44 percent export tax on commodities like soy and sunflower seeds implemented by the government March 11.
More negotiations were expected Monday, and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was planning to address the nation about the standoff.
Local media reported she would announce subsidies for small- and medium-sized farmers who complain they have been especially hard-hit by the new tax.
Farmers had lifted their roadblocks Friday as talks began between the four main agricultural unions and the government, according to Argentina's news agency, Telam.
The negotiations Friday in Buenos Aires came a day after Kirchner told farmers her government would not hold talks with them unless they lifted the roadblocks. But the talks stalled, and the roadblocks went back up Monday.
Argentina is the world's second largest corn exporter and third largest soybean exporter.
Kirchner strongly backs the new tax, labeling the growers' demands for its repeal as "extortion" in a speech Tuesday night. The tax, she said, is justified.
"It is the sector that exports almost everything," she said. "About 95 percent of soybeans are exported. They're not exported in Argentine pesos, they're exported in euros, in dollars. But the costs are Argentine costs."
But Alfredo Rodes, executive director of the Confederation of Rural Associations of Buenos Aires and La Pampa, said the taxes go directly to the central government, not to the provinces where the farmers live, and he accused the government of demanding "practically half" of farmers' production in taxes.
The strike's impact is being felt at supermarkets, which have not seen any grains, meats and other products. Some people are beginning to get restless at what they see as inaction from the government.
Thousands of people took to the streets in Buenos Aires and around the country Tuesday and Wednesday nights to show their support for the striking farmers, banging pots and pans and filling streets and avenues in city centers.
The scenes last week were reminiscent of December 2001, when unpopular government measures led to the fall of then-president Fernando de la Rua and the country's record debt default and currency devaluation.. E-mail to a friend
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