Feature: U.S.-China trade tensions hurt Argentine soybean exports

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-28 11:13:51|Editor: Yang Yi
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(Editor's Note: This story is part of a series, "The Butterfly Effects", on U.S.-initiated trade war.)

BUENOS AIRES, June 28 (Xinhua) -- The current trade frictions between China and the United States have negatively affected the world grain market and hurt countries like Argentina, whose main foreign exchange earnings come from the export of oilseeds and their by-products.

"What affects Argentina most is the trade dispute between the United States and China, which has had a very strong impact on the grain markets and on the price of soybeans in Chicago (Mercantile Exchange)," Julio Calzada, director of Information and Economic Studies of Rosario's Board of Trade (BCR), a non-profit association, said in an interview with Xinhua.

Rosario, a city in the central Argentine province of Santa Fe and 300 km northwest of Buenos Aires, is Argentina's main agricultural hub that exports grain, other agricultural products, meat and lumber.

"Because soybeans are much cheaper... the income of Argentine producers is affected," he said.

"U.S. oil mills buy the soybeans at a lower price. They grind it and turn it into soybean flour. That flour enters European markets, where Argentina sells 30 percent of its total soybean flour," Calzada said.

"So the fact that the United States is entering European markets with soybean flour is something that does not benefit Argentina," he said.

According to the BCR, the current prices of soy derivatives are also declining. The price of a ton of soybean oil is currently below 600 U.S. dollars.

The situation represents a significant loss to Argentina as the legume in the form of grain, flour and oil accounts for some a third of the country's total exports, according to the BCR.

"In Argentina there is a general consensus that the best thing that could happen is that the two largest economies in the world reach an agreement on the commercial differences they have," Calzada said.

Agustin Tejeda Rodriguez, chief economist of the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange, said the decline in Argentine's soybean prices has been 15 percent, which offset the increase in yield.

According to the economist, trade frictions between China and the United States are listed as the foremost factor in the price lowering scenario.

The situation has affected the grinding, which means that the exports of flour and soybean oil also declined, added Rodriguez.

Countries that are heavily dependent on primary products exports are vulnerable to the trade frictions between the two countries, according to Alicia Ciciliani, minister of production of the provincial government of Santa Fe.

But she believes that China, which has a very clear food security policy, will collaborate with other countries in ensuring the global food production system.

This autumn Argentine farmers reaped one of the best harvests in their country's history, with about 57 million tons of soybeans.

The cultivation and processing of soybeans in Argentina generates approximately 250,000 jobs, including direct and indirect ones, according to official data.