By Maximilian Heath and Miguel Lo Bianco
SAN VICENTE, Argentina (Reuters) – In Argentina’s grain fields and ranches, farmers are freer as upcoming elections bring about political change, ending years of economic instability and loosening currency controls and export restrictions. We hope that a new market will emerge.
The South American nation will hold public primaries on Sunday, which will determine the outcome of October’s general elections. The ruling Peronist coalition faces a strong challenge from the conservative opposition.
The government is battling a severe dollar shortage, inflation reaching 116% a year and a rapidly depreciating currency, imposing strict capital controls, restricting some exports and raising interest rates to 97%. This is making it difficult for the company, the world’s top soybean oil and meal exporter and the world’s third largest corn exporter.
Horacio Deciáncio, 71, a rancher and head of a local farming association in the rural town of San Vicente, told Reuters from his field surrounded by cattle: I hope there will be a change for the better,” he said. .
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Like many farmers, he is against Peronists, the industry’s long-running rivalry over taxes and export controls, and supports the main opposition coalition, Together for Change, which has a slight lead in polls. are doing.
“At least what they are talking about in their political campaign will improve the situation in this industry,” he said.
Competing to lead the “Togetter for Change” coalition are Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Laretta and former Security Minister Patricia Bulrich, the current Economy Minister Sergio, the front-runner for the Peronists. – Confronting Mr. Massa.
Both Laretta and Bullrich have pledged to remove taxes and restrictions on agricultural exports, as well as currency and capital market caps, but their only opinion is how quickly these restrictions will be lifted. I know.
“I think Laretta could be a good candidate for what he promises,” said Juan Carlos Aldhain on a field he rents for cattle in San Vicente. The currency volatility in recent years had ballooned costs, he said.
Argentina’s currency control, which severely restricts access to the dollar, has distorted the import and export markets by thriving a foreign currency black market where the dollar is traded at more than double the official price.
Many farmers, or ‘chacarellos’, on the vast Pampean Plain, the engine room of Argentina’s economy, claim to support conservative opponents, as they did in 2015 when they helped former President Mauricio Macri to power. ing.
“What we need is a free market,” Ricardo Firpo, a farmer from the breadbasket province of Santa Fe, said at the Argentine Rural Association’s (SRA) annual trade fair in the capital, Buenos Aires.
“We need to be able to export what we need, work freely, introduce and withdraw foreign currency, have a single exchange rate and low interest rates,” he said.
At a recent event, the chairman of the powerful SRA chamber sat next to Mr Laretta to show support and warned that the agricultural sector was in jeopardy by what he called an economic mismanagement by the Peronist regime. .
The government blames the country’s economic woes on inherited problems, as well as the effects of the war in Ukraine and a record drought. Massa promises to stabilize the economy, but his policies do not directly address the agricultural sector, where the Peronists have long been mutually hostile.
“We believe that the agricultural sector has much more to offer than it does today,” said farmer Deciantio.
“But if they step into our heads, as it is happening now, this industry will be unable to breathe.”
(Reporting by Maximilian Heath and Miguel Lo Bianco; Editing by Adam Jordan and Rosalva O’Brien)
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