Buenos Aires | Reuters – Argentina will suspend corn exports until March 1, the agriculture ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that announced the surprise move as part of the government’s effort to ensure ample domestic food supplies.
“This decision is based on the need to ensure the supply of grain for the sectors that use it as a raw material for the production of animal protein such as pork, chicken, eggs, milk and cattle, where corn represents a significant component of production costs,” the statement said.
Argentina’s government is struggling to control food price inflation and provide relief to low-income families contending with an economy shrinking under the weight of COVID-19.
The South American grains powerhouse is a major international corn, soybean and wheat supplier as well as the world’s top exports of soymeal livestock feed.
“To date, 34.23 million tonnes of corn from the 2019/20 season has been authorized for export, out of a exportable total of 38.50 million tonnes,” the statement said.
“The objective of the measure is that the remaining 4.27 million tonnes remain available for domestic consumption, in order to ensure the supply during the summer months when the supply of cereal tends to be scarce,” it added.
Farmers and other players in Argentina’s corn chain traditionally oppose this type of intervention in the markets.
“We are absolutely surprised. It does not make sense. There was never a lack of corn in Argentina,” said Alberto Morelli, head of Argentina’s MAIZAR corn industry chamber.
Santiago del Solar, a farmer in the bread-basket province of Buenos Aires, called the export suspension a “senseless” move that would damage business confidence.
“Less confidence leads to less production. We have enough corn to supply the domestic chain. This will irritate farmers,” del Solar said. “Is wheat next?”