Argentine farm groups will halt trading of livestock in protest against a 30-day government ban on beef exports aimed at bringing down domestic prices, the country’s main producer groups said in a joint statement.
Reuters reported that Argentina’s centre-left Peronist government unveiled the “emergency measure” to tamp down high inflation on Monday, putting it on a potential collision course with the powerful farm sector that drives exports.
The country’s four main rural associations said in a statement they would launch a nine-day halt in livestock trading starting on Thursday in protest and could take further measures.
“The path and the decisions that the executive branch is taking are deeply wrong,” Jorge Chemes, president of the Argentine Rural Confederations (CRA), one of the four farm associations that launched the protest, told a press conference.
“This is the beginning of a raft of measures.”
The standoff underscores the fragile balance the government needs to strike between supporting farm exports that bring in much-needed foreign currency and bringing down damaging runaway inflation that is set to near 50% this year.
The tension also reflects mounting global concerns about rising food prices that have seen other countries move to control exports too, including top wheat producer Russia which has imposed a tax on exports of the grain.
The farm sector, dominated by grains including soy and wheat, has a history of clashes with Peronist governments over tax hikes and export caps, including with former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is now vice president.
Argentina is the world’s number five beef exporter and has been increasing sales to markets like China, which has bolstered the country’s ranchers but stoked fears about inflation, especially with poverty levels soaring amid a long recession.
The country exported some 897 500 tonnes of beef in 2020 worth around $2.7 billion, official data show, said Reuters. Over half of that went to China. In March shipments to China rose 8.3% year-on-year to $225.8 million, according to statistics from the Institute for the Promotion of Argentine Beef.
President Alberto Fernandez has in recent weeks criticised rising local beef prices and pointed to profit making by exporters who can charge higher prices to overseas buyers.
- This Reuters report was delivered by journalist Nicolás Misculin.