Argentina's beef exporters are up in arms against the government's decision to raise export taxes to 15% from 5% and the specter of a further hike to 25%.

If the new duties aren't scraped, next year's exports could fall to 500,000 tonnes from a 750,000-tonne 2005 estimate, and many jobs could go, Alejandro Fried, institutional relations director for biggest exporter Swift told just-food.

"We hope that there will be some negotiating margin," he said. "Our dialogue is fluid and I think the government is starting to understand how harmful this could be for exports." The industry will continue pressing for taxes to go back to the prior 5% level, Fried added.

Argentina 's government increased the taxes two weeks ago to curb rising meat prices by making local meat more widely available. Prices have soared 20% since 2003, Fried explained. The government should increase output and meat stocks in Argentina, the world's biggest per-capita consumer, instead of raising taxes, Fried noted.

Livestocks' meat-per-weight ratio should rise to at least 260 kilos of clean meat from about 217 kilos now to boost the offer, Fried noted. Argentina exports 20% of its beef production.