Argentine farmers support conservatives in election for freer markets

Argentine farmers support conservatives in election for freer markets

Argentina’s Farmers Pin Hopes on Elections to Boost Economy


In the vast grains fields and cattle ranches of Argentina, farmers are eagerly anticipating upcoming elections, hoping for a change in political leadership that will bring an end to years of economic uncertainty. They yearn for freer markets with fewer currency controls and export limits, which they believe will inject much-needed vitality into the agricultural industry.

Argentina will hold open primary elections on Sunday, providing a glimpse into the outcome of the general elections in October. The ruling Peronist coalition is facing a formidable challenge from the conservative opposition, leading to an atmosphere of political anticipation.

With an acute shortage of dollars, inflation skyrocketing to 116%, and a rapidly devaluing currency, the government has implemented strict capital controls, restricted certain exports, and raised interest rates to a staggering 97%. These measures have made business exceptionally challenging for one of the world’s leading soyoil and meal exporters, as well as the third-largest corn exporter.

“It’s been a tough time for the farm sector, and we hope there will be a change to boost production,” expresses Horacio Deciancio, a 71-year-old rancher and leader of San Vicente’s local agricultural group. Amidst his fields, surrounded by cows, Deciancio voices his opposition to the Peronists, who have long clashed with the industry over taxes and export controls. Instead, he favors the main opposition bloc Together for Change, which currently holds a slight lead in opinion polls.

Deciancio’s optimism stems from the promises made by the competing leaders of Together for Change, Horacio Larreta, the mayor of Buenos Aires City, and ex-security minister Patricia Bullrich. Both candidates pledge to remove taxes and limits on agricultural exports, as well as eliminate restrictions on exchange and capital markets. Their divergence lies primarily in the speed at which these controls could be undone.

“I believe Larreta could be a good candidate for what he’s promising,” says Juan Carlos Ardohain, an agricultural renter in San Vicente. Ardohain emphasizes that currency exchange instability in recent years has inflated his costs. Argentina’s currency controls, which severely restrict access to dollars, have given rise to a thriving black market for foreign currency, where the exchange rate is more than twice the official price. This, in turn, distorts import and export markets, adding more hurdles for farmers.

Many farmers from the fertile Pampean plains, the engine room of Argentina’s economy, are rallying behind the conservative opposition, just as they did in 2015 when they helped propel former President Mauricio Macri to power.

“What we need are free markets,” asserts Ricardo Firpo, an agricultural producer from the province of Santa Fe, known as the country’s breadbasket. During the annual fair of the Argentine Rural Society (SRA) in Buenos Aires, Firpo expresses the necessity for the ability to freely export and import, work without hindrance, operate with a single exchange rate, and benefit from lower interest rates.

A notable show of support from the farming sector towards Larreta was witnessed during a recent event, where the head of the powerful SRA chamber sat beside him. The chamber’s leader warned that the farming sector is in jeopardy due to what he considers mismanagement of the economy by the Peronist administration.

While the government attributes the country’s economic woes to inherited issues, as well as the impact of the Ukraine war and a record drought, the front-runner of the Peronist coalition, Sergio Massa, has promised to stabilize the economy. However, his policies have not directly addressed the concerns of the farming sector, with which the Peronists have a long history of mutual antagonism.

“We believe the farm sector can contribute far more than it currently does,” says farmer Deciancio, expressing the immense potential that lies within the industry. “But if they continue to suffocate us, as they are now, the sector will never be able to thrive.”

In conclusion, Argentina’s farmers are eagerly awaiting the upcoming elections, hoping for a change in leadership that will alleviate their economic hardships. The prospects of freer markets, reduced restrictions, and a more favorable business environment have garnered their support for the conservative opposition. With the agricultural sector being a critical contributor to the country’s economy, the outcome of these elections will undoubtedly have a profound impact on Argentina’s future economic landscape.