Argentina Reels from Soy and Beef Expansion

Toward Freedom

Record yields of soy and a boom in Argentine beef sales to China have been accompanied by the loss of native forests, accelerated soil degradation and water pollution – the consequence of a model that pins hopes of limitless macroeconomic growth on agricultural exports.

Some experts call this “bad development.”

Under President Mauricio Macri, who ends his four-year term in December, Argentina slashed, and in many cases completely eliminated, agricultural taxes and export permits, cancelled restrictions on foreign currency exchanges, and devalued the Argentine peso. He also enhanced the role of the agriculture ministry, making it the Ministry of Agribusiness.

Wheat shipments tripled, and soy brought in a third of the country’s dollars. In 2018, foreign sales of beef hit over half a million tonnes. China was the main destination.

In 2018 Argentina exported 500,000 tons of beef to China. Photo: Jorge Royan.

Yet, ecosystems could not support the stimulus.

“In Argentina, it seems that there was no other option than transgenic [genetically modified, or GM] seeds, the use of agrochemicals and to fumigate villages with glyphosate,” said Enrique Viale, an environmental lawyer.

High prices, new stance

Macri’s promotion of – and good relationship with – the agriculture sector contrasted with the confrontational stance adopted by his […]

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