As a sign of the challenges in Argentina, prices change so fast supermarkets do not even put price stickers on products anymore. The South American country is facing serious currency issues, price increases over 100%, that is further exacerbated by a long term drought that is forcing the fresh produce exporting sector to dig deep to make ends meet.
The Argentine artist Sergio Díaz, along with other artists’ in the Money Art movement, paint on the Peso notes, ironically it then adds value to the painted notes. Picture: Sergio Díaz, Instagram.
Young Argentinians are now for the first time in over a decade experiencing the self-same conditions of hyperinflation and currency challenges their grandparents and parents faced over many decades in the history of the country. Prices rose 124% from August last year to this year according to government statistics.
“You have no idea how much things are going to cost tomorrow. In supermarkets, they don't even bother putting stickers with prices anymore as prices change faster than you can put stickers on a product,” says Nahuel Lavino, export sales manager at Fama, a large Argentinian citrus exporter and importer.
Florencia Zamora, from the family business Zamora Citrus says current conditions are unfamiliar to her. “Regarding inflation in Argentina, personally it is the first time that I've experienced hyperinflation. That is to say, today prices vary day to day, budgets change so much that payment conditions are in cash.”
She says this has a profound effect on production costs, which can quickly add up for citrus and producers of other fruit who rely on so many inputs. Often many of these inputs must be imported too. “Regarding the costs of producing with this inflation, it is very difficult, because it cannot be planned, there is no price for things and/or services. So we won't really know the result of the season.”
Zamora adds although their export business earn foreign currency the situation in Argentina is so dire, that the forex income is a lot less once it reaches them eventually. “To this is added the price of the exchange rate, the North American currency, when it enters it is transformed into pesos, at an exchange rate lower than the Blue exchange rate, the dollar inform and by which the Argentine economy of reference. That is, there is also inflation in terms of prices in dollars.”
Lavino says as the Argentinian citrus season is coming to an end they have less fruit available despite the high demand from key markets. “Our season is ending with less fruit than expected. Clients demand more fruit but do not want to increase prices. We have three more weeks to go with mandarins, and after that oranges, which also are in great demand, this will keep us busy until December. There is good demand overall for citrus in Europe and other export markets of England, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, etc.”
With elections looming in Argentina they pin their hopes on new political leadership. “This year, the new conditions set by the president who wins are key. We know that they must improve the conditions to be able to produce and export, because it is what Argentina needs, the trade balance deficit cannot be sustained any longer. So they will have to devalue as a first option, and control inflation with other tools,” states a hopeful Zamora.