Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beef: It's (not) what's for dinner

Rising international food prices could have a negative effect on the stable economy of Latin America. A report released last week by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), for instance, concluded that there is a high risk that inflation could stifle the economies of poorer countries in the region.

"The food price shock" (as the IADB called it) and its impact on Latin America have affected the diets of people in parts of rhea region. Some measures taken by governments to counter the effects of increased food prices have been insufficient. Such is the case of Argentina, a country renown for its cattle and large amounts of beef consumption. According to a report by the Economía & Regiones consultancy firm (and mentioned by Mercopress):
The 46.7 kilos beef consumption per person per year is almost the same average as ninety years ago and is attributed to a fall in Argentina’s national herd and a sustained increase in prices, adds the report that was published in Buenos Aires daily Clarin

“The maximum price policy (and export quotas) implemented” by the government of Nestor Kirchner and continued by his wife President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, supposedly to help contain inflation “resulted in a drastic drop in profits, contracting livestock supply gradually reducing the Argentine rodeo to one of its historic negative peaks”, points out the report based on data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food.
Beef consumption could continue decreasing this year; according to the Clarin article cited by Mercopress the price of one kilo (2.2 pounds) of veal last month was 40.59 pesos, a spike from 28.90 pesos in April 2010. Despite the rising prices, Argentine “cattle rancher advisor” Victor Tonelli told the local press that the decreased consumption is due to a decreased amount of meat available in the market.

While cattle ranchers have been feeling the pinch, chicken farmers have taken advantage of a tripling in consumption over the past decade according to Clarin. Another option (albeit extreme for Argentine tastes) may be to take advantage of the country’s growing exportations of horsemeat.

Image- Washington Post via Denver Post
Online Sources- Reuters, Mercopress, Clarin, infocampo.com.ar, Revista Generaccion

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