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Argentina to announce deal to restart beef exports next week, sources say

·2 min read

By Jorge Otaola and Nicolás Misculin

BUENOS AIRES, June 18 (Reuters) - Argentina has clinched a deal with meat packers aimed at partially restarting exports after a one-month suspension, and the country is set to announce the agreement early next week, two source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

The world's fifth largest beef exporter and a key supplier to China, Argentina halted exports for a month in mid-May due to fast-rising domestic food prices. Meat packers, fearing the curbs could be extended, have been negotiating a way to lift them.

"An agreement was reached and will be announced on Tuesday," said one industry source directly involved in the talks, who asked not to be named due to the high political sensitivity of the issue.

Production Minister Kulfas told local radio on Thursday that a deal was being finalized that would allow a partial reopening beef exports while guaranteeing ample domestic supply. This week, Reuters reported a preliminary agreement had been struck.

Beef prices in Argentina, known for its barbecues and succulent steaks, is a touchy subject, especially with mid-term legislative elections coming up in November.

A government spokesperson confirmed that a press conference was being organized to announce the agreement on Tuesday.

"The idea is to allow meat to be exported again, but we are going to do it with a system that allows us to guarantee a greater presence of meat in the domestic market," Kulfas said in the radio interview.

Argentina's overall inflation rate is expected to near 50% this year.

In the 12 months through April, meat prices in Argentina soared 60%-70%, according to official data. In the first four months of 2021, 28.8% of the 965,286 tonnes of beef produced in Argentina were exported, of which 76.6% went to China. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Hugh Bronstein and David Gregorio)