Economy Minister Sergio Massa announced Sunday a special exchange rate for the country’s soy producers in a bid to incentivise exports, shore up Central Bank reserves and avoid a currency devaluation.
Exporters of soy, the country’s top commodity, will be able to sell dollars from their shipments abroad at a rate of 200 pesos per dollar, more lucrative than the official rate of 139 per dollar, not including taxes.
This measure “allows us to strengthen reserves, which is essential to overcome the stress that the economy has been suffering,” Massa said at a press conference Sunday with more than a dozen agriculture business leaders in attendance.
Soy exporters have agreed with the government to sell at least US$5 billion in September as well as US$1 billion in the first 72 hours of the measure, Massa said.
An emergency decree would be published in the coming hours to make the policy official, Massa said, adding that the exchange rate for exporters will return to normal in October.
Massa, who started about a month ago as the third economy minister since July, is seeking to reverse the months long decline of cash reserves at the Central Bank. By some private estimates, the monetary authority only has a little more than US$2 billion of net cash reserves left, escalating concerns about a peso devaluation.
The government charges a 33 percent tax on soy exports, making it a major source of tax revenue and dollars for reserves. Exporters also must exchange the dollars from exports into pesos — until now at the official rate.
A gap between Argentina’s official and parallel exchange rates has led exporters of all types to withhold some shipments, waiting for a major devaluation to export at a more profitable rate. Conversely, importers have moved shipments forward to take advantage of a relatively low official rate.
In July, exports rose only seven percent from a year ago while imports were up 44 percent, according to government data. Argentina returned to a trade deficit recently after two years of surpluses.
Massa will travel to Washington this week with his economic team for his first in-person negotiations over the country’s US$44-billion programme with the International Monetary Fund.
A key market concern is that Argentina remains far off from the target in the IMF program for net reserves. Massa said the new measure aims to cool inflation, narrow the currency gap and stabilise the economy.
“This measure is a tool that puts us very close to complying with the targets” in the IMF deal, he said.
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg