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Argentina to limit beef exports again in price war

Written by: Staff

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Nov 24 (Reuters) Argentina, the world's No 3 beef supplier, plans to place new limits on meat exports in a bid to avoid price rises for shoppers in the domestic market, a government source said.

The country's center-left government halted nearly all foreign beef sales in March due to soaring beef prices that fed inflation of 12.3 per cent in 2005. Those measures have since been eased, and local prices have fallen.

''A mechanism that keeps monthly exports at 45,000 tonnes is being sought,'' a government source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters yesterday.

''That would conserve (the supply of) meat for the internal markets,'' the source said, adding that the new measure would be signed in the coming days.

Following the government measure in March, the country's beef sales abroad plummeted to 7,000 tonnes in May. But with the restrictions eased, volumes increased to 47,000 tonnes in August and 58,000 in September, official figures show.

Beef is an everyday staple in Argentina, but its flavorsome mainly grass-fed meat is also an important export earner, bringing in a record 1.4 billion dollars last year. Even with the export limits, Argentina's beef sales earned 890 million dollars in the first nine months of this year.

Meat prices in shops have fallen over the course of the year but live cattle prices have climbed recently, raising concern that those increases could trickle down to butchers' counters in the run-up to the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The limit is set to apply for the summer months of December, January and February, the government source said. At the end of the southern hemisphere summer, beef supplies normally increase.

Last week, officials sent a list of recommended maximum prices to the country's most important live cattle market, drawing an angry response from many traders and ranchers.

Reuters SBA VP0550

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