July 26, 2006


Argentina doles out US$278 million in direct aid to boost beef production



The Argentine government has allocated ARS857 million (US$278 million) to boost beef production over the next four years, Agriculture Secretary Miguel Campos said Monday (Jul 24).


The plan would ensure a stable supply of beef for both the domestic and international markets, Campos said.


Under the plan, ranchers would receive ARS214 million (US$69.5 million) a year in direct aid for the next four years.


The money would be used to improve sanitary conditions, cattle genetics and the country's animal tracking systems. The cattle herd would also be boosted to 62 million by 2010, up from the current 50 million.


One of the aims of the plan is also to raise the annual slaughter rate to 15.7 million head from the current 14.25 million. This would boost annual beef production to 3.6 million tonnes by 2010, compared with 3.06 million now.


Rancher groups in Argentina have long called for a government plan to boost beef production. While some lauded its arrival, others have said the plan was impractical and offered nothing new.


Among the critics was Lucian Miguens, president of the Argentine Rural Society, one of the country's leading farm groups. Miguens said the plan had some positive elements but ranchers need immediate help. The plan is mainly medium and long term and would not help ranchers' immediate situation, he added. 


Argentina's livestock prices jumped 15 percent earlier in the week as thousands of ranchers went on a 4-day strike to protest the government's agriculture policies by halting cattle deliveries to the market.


The strike, led by Argentina's Rural Confederations, protested the government's ban on beef exports and taxes on the beef export industry.


Although the government has been easing the ban since it was imposed in March, farmers were incensed that beef prices were far below what they were before the ban. However, inflation, which has been running rampant before the ban, has cooled off to a more manageable 0.5 percent in May a few months after the ban was imposed.