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Argentine landowners withhold meat supplies from country’s population, says Campaign group

21 December 2006

ARGENTINA - Since December 3, the major landowners in Argentina’s Liniers region have been to refusing to provide cattle to the country’s meatpacking houses. The boycott is a protest by the country’s agrarian bourgeoisie against restrictions imposed by the government on beef exports.

The Argentine government has limited meat exports to a maximum of 45,000 tons a month (close to 70 percent of national production). The government measure is aimed at guaranteeing a regular supply of meat products within the country itself, controlling inflation and forestalling a drive by workers to raise wage levels. Beef is a basic foodstuff in Argentina, which boasts the highest per capita beef consumption in the world.

The government of President Nestor Kirchner has attempted to justify this economic policy with political demagoguery, claiming that it is a means of social support for Argentine workers and the people as a whole.

Despite its attempts to portray itself as above the conflict of class interests and governing on behalf of the Argentine people, the Peronist administration of Kirchner is clearly a bourgeois government that has made many concessions to the powerful rural elite. But it needs to balance between the conflicting interests of the diverse sectors of the country’s bourgeoisie. His aim in imposing controls to assure meat supplies for the national market is to uphold, on behalf of all of the country’s capitalist employers, lower consumer prices and in turn stabilize the price for labor power. In this way, the government acts to guarantee current rates of profit for all branches of production.

At the same time, however, this measure comes into conflict with the insatiable thirst for profit on the part of meat producers who are now responding with the boycott. This agrarian bourgeoisie seeks the unlimited exploitation of the advantages of owning property on the Argentine pampas. The region offers unrivaled conditions for raising cattle, which translates into an unrivaled competitive advantage in international trade. The cost of production of a kilo of meat in Argentina is 1.30 pesos, while the final Argentine consumer pays close to 6.5 pesos. This difference in prices guarantees the Argentine rural elite a rate of profit rivaling the rates achieved in any other sector of the national economy.

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