Argentine cattle farmers end strike over exports ban

Argentine cattle farmers on Thursday ended a two-week halt on domestic beef sales called to protest a government-imposed pause in exports designed to moderate skyrocketing meat prices.

The country is the fourth-largest beef exporter in the world, and one of its biggest consumers per capita, and revenues from the sector are vital to the country’s economy.

Mid-May, President Alberto Fernandez’s government announced a one-month suspension on foreign meat sales to “get the sector in order, restrict speculative practices and avoid tax evasion in foreign trade.”

Poverty affects 42 percent of Argentines, and Fernandez is trying to reduce the cost of living by implementing price controls.

Fernandez insisted 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 price rises contributed to Argentine inflation, already among the highest in the world, reaching 17.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, according to the INDEC statistics institute.

In response to the government’s move, cattle farmers declared a “cessation of all categories of cattle trade.”

On Thursday, the Agrarian Federation of Argentina announced a resumption of deliveries, while seeking an urgent meeting with Fernandez.

“We must find alternatives that do not destroy Argentine livestock farming, that do not affect the wallet of the Argentine people, that do not make us lose our international credibility and that do not affect the national economy,” farmers groups said in a statement.

According to the Argentine chamber of industry and commerce, the industry employs some 100,000 people. 

The protest did not harm domestic availability, with butcheries and markets having stocked up and consumption dropping due to a sharp price increase — some 65.3 percent year-on-year in April. 

Meat consumption in Argentina has been declining year after year, from 69.3 kilograms per person in 2009 to 49.2 kilograms today, according to the CICCRA industry chamber.

In 2020, the country exported 819 billion tons of beef and cow leather worth $3.37 billion — a 16.5-percent drop from 2019 — primarily to China, Germany and Israel, according to INDEC.

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