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ECONOMY | 16-04-2024 20:21

Beef consumption in Argentina plummets to historic lows

Beef sales hit a historic low in the first quarter of 2024 amid a heavy drop in consumption, falling to their lowest level in three decades.

Beef consumption has fallen to near-record levels amid a biting economic crisis, an industry body said Tuesday.

In the first quarter of 2024, beef consumption in Argentina – one of the world's top producers and consumers of the meat – dropped to its lowest level in three decades, according to the CICCRA (Cámara de la Carne de Argentina) meat industry chamber.

This amounted to nearly 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) less per person, per year.

"The apparent consumption of beef was 17.6 percent lower than in the same quarter last year, marking the lowest record in the last three decades," the March report released on Monday detailed.

According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, Argentina has some of the world's most carnivorous inhabitants – until recently consuming nearly 50 kilograms (110 pounds) per person, per year.

Argentina is battling an economic crisis that has seen purchasing power slashed in four months under self-declared "anarcho-capitalist" President Javier Milei and his budget-cutting measures.

Poverty affects nearly 60 percent of Argentina's population.

Inflation in March reached 11 percent, less than in the previous three months but still at a high of 288.9 percent. 

In the same month, beef prices rose 9.8 percent from February and 278 per cent year-on-year, prompting customers to migrate to cheaper cuts, the report said.

Butcher Carlos Principe told AFP in Buenos Aires he now sells more cheap cuts of meat and said his sales dropped by 25 percent in the first quarter of this year.

"Consumption went down a lot, people who used to buy monthly now buy by the day," the 75-year-old said.

"I see that the popular cuts - which were not sold before - are now selling a lot, such as roast beef, paleta and osobuco," said Príncipe.

Argentine beef exports, meanwhile, increased by 22.9 percent in March from the year before. But despite this small green shoot, between January and March 2024 there was 7.6 percent less production than in the same period last year, according to CICCRA.

Beef consumption in Argentina has been declining year after year from about 78 kilograms (172 pounds) per capita in the 1980s. Meanwhile, consumption of cheaper meats such as pork and poultry has doubled in the last 30 years.


– TIMES/AFP

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