Argentines have historically crossed over to neighbouring countries, generally Chile and Paraguay, to buy various products (especially domestic appliances) at a lower price. That trend, however, is now being reversed – it’s our neighbours who are crossing the frontier to stock up.
The phenomenon is occurring in various border provinces, including Río Negro, Mendoza and Entre Ríos (the latter linked to Uruguay by bridges), thus permitting constant traffic flows. The same thing is also happening in Paraguay and Brazil.
The issue has even been acknowledged by Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, who recently declared: “We have frontier problems with Argentina because their prices are extremely low and consumers naturally go where it is cheapest. This is creating an imbalance and our border shops are being punished.”
It is not uncommon for Uruguayans, Chileans, Paraguayans and Brazilians to cross the frontier to shop in Argentina, buying primary needs such as food and cleaning products but also cigarettes, books and leather, but numbers are rising. The Bariloche Chamber of Commerce has even said that “the Chileans are now overrunning our supermarkets.”
Cities on the Uruguayan border like Gualeguaychú, Concordia and Colón are witnessing a peculiar phenomenon whereby Uruguayan citizens, mainly pensioners, are “crossing the water,” not only for daily shopping but also to rent houses and flats to live in Argentina, in order to take full advantage of the exchange rate gap and currency woes.
Chileans also spot an encouraging panorama for shopping here with massive Easter tourism, bearing in mind that Argentine hotels are cheaper – a four-star hotel in the Santa Cruz provincial capital of Río Gallegos costs US$25, for example, as against US$60 in Punta Arenas or elsewhere across the Andes.
Foreigners crossing over into Argentina can find on supermarket shelves prices of only a third of their own countries. A Chilean couple recently crossing over told Noticias Argentinas that they had bought a softener for clothing for 3,500 Chilean pesos when it would have cost 16,000 in their own country.
Due to this phenomenon there are queues of between three and four hours at Customs checkpoints when the foreigners return to their countries with their Argentine purchases.
Until now no president of the region except Lacalle Pou has expressed an opinion on this issue, nor spoken of the possibility of deciding any package of measures to control this situation.
by Juan Pablo Estévez, Noticias Argentinas