Cattle farmers on Friday extended their suspension of cow sales to abattoirs, continuing their protest against a government-imposed pause on exports, designed to moderate skyrocketing domestic meat prices.
The La Comisión de Enlace de Entidades Agropecuarias (“Liaison Commission of Agricultural Entities”), which represents agricultural producers and businesses, initially declared a "cessation of all categories of cattle trade" lasting until May 28. However, on Friday, the group said it would extend its strike until midnight Wednesday (June 2).
The groups said that "the path chosen by the government is not going to make domestic meat prices fall, rather it will have the opposite effect."
Until now, the impact of the beef sale ban has not been noticed at butcher shops, due to the accumulated stocks that were in the refrigerators and a general decrease in consumption.
Meat and other agricultural products have benefited from a boom in prices on international markets, which has in turn had an impact on domestic prices.
The government announced on May 17 that it was suspending beef exports for 30 days in order to control prices.
Inflation has surged in recent months, rising 17.6 percent in the first four months, according to government data. Prices have increased 46.3 percent over the last 12 months, but the price of beef rose 65.3 percent over the same period, according to the Argentine Institute of Beef Promotion (IPCVA).
The government says it is seeking to "get the sector in order, restrict speculative practices and avoid tax evasion in foreign trade."
However, officials have hinted the ban could be lifted before it is due to expire, should a solution be reached with producers.
"We are going to lift the closure when we have resolved this issue," reiterated President Alberto Fernández in an interview broadcast on YouTube on Thursday.
"Between the exporters and the people, I choose the people," he declared, playing to his base.
Poverty affects 42 percent of Argentines, and the Frente de Todos leader is trying to reduce the cost of living by implementing price controls ahead of crucial midterm elections later this year.
Representatives from both the government and the industry have met this week for talks, but as yet there has been no resolution.
According to the Argentine Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the beef industry employs some 100,000 people.
Argentines ate 38 kilogrammes (84 pounds) of beef and veal per head in 2019, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – about 12 kilogrammes per head more than the second-placed United States.
In 2020, the country exported 819 billion tons of beef and cow leather worth US$3.37 billion – a 16.5-percent drop from 2019 – primarily to China, Germany and Israel, according to INDEC.