Argentina government warns beef sector to help cut inflation or risk export bans

Credit: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, March 16 (Reuters) - Argentina's government warned slaughterhouses on Wednesday to do their part to help bring down domestic inflation or risk export bans on beef, underscoring rising tensions in the farm-driven South American country over spiraling prices.

The government, which limited beef exports for periods last year, has broad agreements with the sector to ensure the supply of certain cuts at low prices to the local market, where beef is a staple for many Argentines' weekly "asado" barbecue grill.

With inflation running at over 52% and climbing, Minister of Agriculture Julián Domínguez said on Twitter that he had met with the main ABC meat chamber and warned it that failure to meet with the supply obligations could see exporters blocked.

"I informed them that those who do not comply with the commitments assumed with the Argentine people will not be able to continue exporting meat," he said.

"I made this decision in the context of the war that has sparked global food price rises, adding to the crisis that our livestock is going through due to the drought, the fires in Corrientes and a shortfall of 1.5 million heads (of cattle)."

The ABC chamber, which brings together beef exporters from Argentina, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Argentina is one of the world's leading exporters of beef. According to official data, last year it shipped 803,385 tonnes, of which 73% went to China.

Beef is an essential food for Argentines, which makes it politically sensitive. According to government data, the price of beef and its derivatives rose between 53.4% and 57.3% over the last year, depending on the region of the country.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Tim Ahmann)

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