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Argentinian government limits corn exports

Argentina’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries has limited corn exports to 30,000 tonnes per day between 1 January and 1 March 2021.

This measure aims to prevent natural shortages. On 30 December, the government announced that it would suspend corn exports entirely, but after producers went on a 72-hour strike, the ministry softened the measures. According to the official statement, the objective is to guarantee internal supply for Argentina’s domestic animal protein chain, such as pork, chicken, eggs, and milk, over the summer and until the start of the 2020/2021 harvest season.

Corn exports out of Argentina are limited by the government to cover national demand. Photo: Bart Nijs
Corn exports out of Argentina are limited by the government to cover national demand. Photo: Bart Nijs

2 sides of the issue

The Argentinean poultry sector sees 2 sides of the issue as explained by Roberto Domenech, president of the Center for Poultry Processing Companies (Cepa). He affirmed that over the last 90 days, it has been hard to buy corn for a balanced feed formula, which has 63% of corn. Some chicken producing companies had to reduce the percentage of corn, using only between 40% and 45% of the cereal. On the other hand, Domenech recognises that corn producers have the right to trade.

The government has already “authorised” the export of 34.23 million tonnes of corn during the 2019/20 season, from the “exportable” amount of 38.50 million tonnes, about 89% of the corn. In other words, government tries to keep at least 2,470 million tonnes available for internal consumption to ensure a stable supply during the summer months.

Argentinean poultry consumption meets beef for first time
In 2020, Argentineans consumed 50 kilos of poultry meat per capita, matching beef consumption for the first time in history.

Corn producers fear protectionism

Corn producers do fear more interventions as Argentina has a history of protectionism with Kirchnerism, named after the political party which current president Alberto Fernandez and his vice-president Cristina Kirchner reside under. The president of the Argentinean Rural Confederation, Jorge Chemes, comments: “The National Government tries to destroy the markets for the benefit of a few companies and to the detriment of 30,000 corn producers.”

Argentina is the world’s third largest corn exporter and, according to official data, the country shipped 36 million tonnes of the grain between January and November 2020. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that from the 2020/21 harvest, 34 million tonnes will be exported, just behind US (67.3 million) and Brazil (39 million).