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Argentina: Drought and Death May Lead to Imports

18 August 2009

ARGENTINA - Argentina, the biggest beef- consuming nation, may resort to imports for the first time within two years as a drought kills cattle and export controls prompt ranchers to quit the business.

According to a news report from Bloomberg, pastures have dried up and forage prices gained so much that farmers are allowing livestock to die in the fields, said Arturo Llavallol, a director of Buenos Aires-based farm group The Rural Society. Ranchers are killing higher than usual numbers of breeding stock, compromising future output, he told Bloomberg.

The nation’s herd has dwindled 7 per cent since 2006, when the government restricted beef exports to boost supplies in the local market, Llavallol said in a telephone interview from his farm in Saavedra, southwest Buenos Aires province. The country may need imports within a couple of years, he said.

“If we want to keep exporting, we have to lower consumption,” said Llavallol, also the vice president of the Paris-based International Meat Secretariat, an association that represents ranchers worldwide. “If you don’t have enough raw materials, you shut down the factory or you import.”

Argentines will consume about 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of beef per person this year, according to Miguel Schiariti, an analyst who compiles a monthly report for the Argentine Beef Industry and Commerce Chamber. Consumption has risen from less than 60 kilogrammes a person in 2006 when the export restrictions began, according to Ciccra, as the chamber is known.

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