May 20, 2021

Meat producers in Argentina have announced plans to halt the trading of beef and veal for one week in response to a month-long government suspension on exports due to rising prices.

The Liaison Commission for Agricultural Entities, which represents agricultural producers and businesses, declared a “cessation of all categories of cattle trade” from midnight today (May 20) to May 28.

On Monday night, the government announced a suspension on foreign meat sales to “get the sector in order, restrict speculative practices and avoid tax evasion in foreign trade”.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Alberto Fernández insisted that Argentina could not accept the recent rise in meat prices in a country already reeling from three years of recession and the adverse economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The meat issue has got out of hand,” Fernández told the country’s Radio 10 broadcaster. “The price is rising every month without justification. We need to get it under control.”

The government took the decision due to the strong impact that price rises have had on Argentina’s inflation, already one of the highest in the world and which increased by 17.6% during the first four months of the year, according to the INDEC national statistics institute.

The cost of living has soared 46.3% in the last 12 months, but beef prices in April were 65.3% higher than the same month in 2020, the Argentine Institute of Beef Promotion (IPCVA) said.

Argentines ate 38kg of beef and veal per head in 2019, the most among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries (OECD), and about 12kg per head more than the United States.

Argentina is also the fourth largest exporter of beef in the world, the revenues from which are vital to the country’s economy.

In 2020, Argentina exported €2.8bn worth of beef and cow leather, a 16.5% drop compared with 2019, primarily to China, Germany and Israel, according to INDEC.

Meat processing plants offer certain cuts of meat at reduced prices, but Fernández said it’s “a crumb of 8,000 tons of meat when here we eat 200,000 tons a month”.

Miguel Schiaritti, President of the Argentine Chamber of Industry and Commerce for meat and its derivatives – which puts the country’s per capita beef consumption at 49.2kg – blasted the government’s move.

Schiaritti said: “The measure is absolutely harmful for Argentina. It’s not possible to make a sector that employs more than 100,000 people responsible for inflation.”

He said a previous restriction on meat exports imposed initially for six months in 2006 during the presidency of Néstor Kirchner lasted 10 years.

“We know this generated the loss of 12.5 million heads of cattle, 19,000 jobs were lost and 150 factories closed, of which only 70 reopened,” Schiaritti added.

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