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Argentina Reacts To Soaring Steak Prices

Argentina’s government has tightened up restrictions on beef exports in a bid to stem surging prices at butchers’ shops that are fanning fears about inflation, industry sources said Feb. 12.

Argentina is one of the world’s biggest exporters of beef, but the government has curbed shipments sporadically over the past four years in order to boost domestic supplies of the nation’s favourite food and ward off unpopular price rises.

A jump in beef costs over the past two months has raised alarm over the country’s shrinking cattle herd, which has been caused by a shift toward more lucrative crops, such as soy, and a drought that drove farmers to sell off their animals.

“The whole bureaucratic export process was flowing pretty freely in the second half of last year, but that changed dramatically at the end of December, when the price rises caused the flow to be slowed considerably,” one source at a leading meat-packing plant said, asking not to be named.

Government export curbs on beef, wheat and corn are a leading gripe among the country’s farmers, who have staged a series of strikes and protests over the agricultural policies of President Cristina Fernandez.

They say farmers have decided to run down their herds and turn their land over to soybeans because of policies that have made ranching unprofitable and have failed to stem inflation, which private estimates see at about 20 per cent this year.

However, government officials have sought to play down the recent price hikes. They say recent rains have encouraged ranchers to leave their animals out to graze, instead of sending them to market.

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