Opposition presidential hopeful Alberto Fernández, the favourite to be elected the country's next leader in presidential elections scheduled for just under three weeks time, on Monday unveiled a new plan he says will tackle hunger and food poverty in Argentina.
The announcement of his 'Argentina sin Hambre' ("Argentine without hunger") programme, delivered on the campaign trail at an event in Buenos Aires, comes in the wake of data released last week indicating that poverty rose to 35.4 percent in the first half of 2019. The number of Argentines living in extreme poverty over the last six months has risen from 6.7 percent to 7.7 percent.
"It is not possible that in the country of wheat, the country of cows, [the price of] bread and milk do not stop rising and are missing from the table of Argentines," said the Frente de Todos candidate, who went on to mock the government's handling of debt repayments.
"The first thing that must be 'reprofiled' are the prices of the [basic] food basket, so that everyone has access to it," added the Peronist, speaking from the garden of the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of Buenos Aires.
"We have to be ashamed. We say that we are the country that produces food for 400 million people, and we cannot feed 15 million people who are in [living in] a situation of poverty," said Fernández, who explained that his plan would guarantee essential food items to those who fall below the poverty line, as defined by the INDEC national statistics bureau.
"This proposal is not a campaign [proposal], it is a proposal for Argentina that we can begin to materialise today. It is clear that if I become elected I will put myself at the forefront of the campaign against hunger, but if not, I want us all to be committed to moving forward with this," he said.
Flanked by an audience of trade union leaders, businessmen, intellectuals and leaders from social organisations, Fernández described those living in poverty as "the weakest and the most forgotten."
The former Cabinet chief said he would seek to unite the State, businesses and social organisations under a new federal council, which would seek to implement a sustainable food policy for Argentina and lower the price of essential items in the basic food basket. The basic food basket, as defined by INDEC, is valued at around 14,000 pesos (approximately US$234) for a family of five. That figure has risen by 59 percent since August 2018. Inflation in 2019 is expected to come in at at least 55 percent this year.
The key points of the plan are "improving food and nutrition ... lowering the price of food ... creating jobs," and "implementing a sustainable and sustainable food system from production to consumption," said Fernández.
He also suggested that IVA (VAT, value-added tax) could be refunded to families living below the poverty line and said the prices of healthier products would be reduced.
The candidate also said a "National Food Security Programme" would be created that would see "fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products" promoted in food and nutritional policies by the government.
Criticising the Macri administration, Fernández went on to describe the government's budget for meals in public school canteens as "pathetic."
"When a child does not receive adequate food in his first years of life he is doomed to an uncertain future," he declared.