Argentina’s government announced Tuesday that it will allow stockbreeders to resume exporting beef to China, lifting the cap on exports it imposed in May to limit rising prices in the domestic market.
"Regarding the issue of beef meant for China, we will restart exports starting on Monday," the government’s new Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries Minister Julián Domínguez announced at a press conference, following a meeting with the leaders of the country’s four main agricultural groups.
With the change, preserved and manufactured bovine exports to the Asian nation will be allowed, said Domínguez, who said the issue would be reassessed every 60 days, with further normalisation expected in 2022.
Restrictions will remain in place for seven cuts of beef to ensure domestic supply, however, he added.
"This is the message that producers needed," Elbio Laucirica, the head of the CONINAGRO agricultural association, told the Reuters news agency after the announcement. "It doesn't affect the local market."
The government capped beef exports at 50 percent of their normal volume more than four months ago as part of a move to tackle rising beef prices, which have surged by around 65 percent over the last year and a half.
Agricultural groups, producers and farmers reacted strongly to the move, temporarily halting cattle and grain trading and threatening further strike action.
Exports are a key source of foreign currency for the government and Argentina is among the top five beef exporters in the world, with around 75 percent of external sales going to China, according to government data.
The government’s new rules move will allow cattle-breeders to return to another key market. Exceptions are already in place for the European Union and the so-called ‘Hilton quota,’ as well as Israel. Under the new guidelines, cows that no longer have “reproductive capacity and that are mostly not consumed in the domestic market” will be allowed to be sold to China.
The announcement came after a series of meetings between national government officials, provincial governors and agricultural leaders.
Reacting to the news, farming representatives said it was “a good sign,” while underlining that they still seek the removal of the existing restrictions. Another partial reopening of exports in August did not fully satisfy producers.
Argentine beef exports totalled some 897,500 tons in 2020, bringing in around US$2.71 billion, according to official data.