RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Argentina’s four largest agricultural business associations resolved this Friday, May 28, to extend the pause of cattle sales as a protest action against the decision of Alberto Fernández’s government to prohibit beef exports temporarily.
The rural entities, integrated into the so-called Comisión de Enlace, had decided not to send live cattle to the auction markets where slaughterhouses buy from last Thursday, and until midnight this Friday, but they decided to extend the measure through next Wednesday.
The closure of exports has been in force since May 20, for one month, and the government claims that the measure seeks to curb the price of meat, which in April registered a year-on-year increase of 66.1%, much higher than the general price variation of 46.3%.
The Comisión de Enlace said this Friday in a communiqué that “the path chosen by the hovernment will not bring down domestic meat prices but will have the opposite effect.”
A COMPLEX SECTOR
The South American country is one of the world’s largest beef consumers per capita, with 45 kilos per year. It is also the world’s fifth-largest producer and fourth-largest exporter of beef.
Argentina sends abroad 30% of its production, with exports totaling US$2.7 billion in 2020, driven by demand from China, which accounts for three out of every four tons of Argentine exports.
The entities asserted that the cattle farmer is not the price maker or the cause of inflation, but the “weakest link” of a “complex” sectorial chain.
They repudiated the fact that some members of the chain suggest the government increase export duties on meat to reopen shipments abroad, knowing that this will affect the price paid by slaughterhouses to cattle farmers.
PRESIDENT DEFENDS THE CLOSURE
“I am determined that we are going to lift the export closure the day we have clearly resolved this issue. Until then, I am not going to do it. Because what has been seen is that, exporting 30% of what is produced, we have a huge problem with domestic prices”, said Friday the Argentine president.
In an interview, Fernández blamed the rise in prices on the strong international demand, mainly from China, and affirmed that cattle farmers and local meatpacking plants “did nothing” to “decouple” the international price of meat from the price in the domestic market.
He acknowledged that the measure of closing exports “is not good” because Argentina loses income in dollars, but he said that “the first thing is that Argentines eat”.
“I would not want to do this. What I would like is that the price formers themselves -the producers and slaughterhouses- realize that Argentines should not have to pay the same price for meat as is paid in the world, because we produce it,” he pointed out.