Argentina ag ministry suspends registration of exports

Buenos Aires | Reuters — Argentina’s ministry of agriculture suspended on Wednesday the registration of agricultural exports until further notice, it said in a statement, a move that traders said likely foreshadowed a steep increase in grains export tariffs.

“When they close the registration, it’s because something is coming,” said agricultural consultant Nestor Roulet, secretary of agribusiness in the government of former President Mauricio Macri, in a telephone interview with Reuters.

In December, the new Peronist administration of Alberto Fernandez hiked export levies on soy, wheat and corn, hitting farmers in the grains-exporting nation, to raise revenue needed to avoid default on a mountain of sovereign debt.

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Roulet, who estimated the government could increase withholdings by three per cent, said tax collection in the case of soybeans could go up by $513 million (all figures US$). The measure, however, could imply a loss of hundreds of millions in income for growers, Roulet said.

Currently, withholdings on soybean exports are 30 per cent at a time when Argentina is in a deep economic recession and is heading for a sovereign debt restructuring on about $100 billion.

Argentina’s Rural Confederation (CRA) said in a statement that it was surprised by the measure, which left a “deep sense of deception.”

— Reporting for Reuters by Jorge Iorio; writing by Cassandra Garrison.

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