Country Focus Data: Argentina

by Melissa Alexander
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Capital: Buenos Aires.

Demography: Population 36.95 million, 1.16% growth rate (2000 estimates); Spanish language; 92% nominally Roman Catholic religion (less than 20% practicing).

Geography: In southern South America bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Chile and Uruguay; mostly temperate climate; rich plains of the Pampas in the north, flat to rolling plateau in the south, Andes mountains along western border.

Government: Republic. Chief of state and head of government is President Fernando de la Rua.

Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Industry and Commerce under Minister Omar Perotti; Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Resources under Secretary Miguel Paulon.

Economy: Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector and a diversified industrial base. Agriculture contributes 7% to gross domestic product and employs 1.5% of the workforce.

A recession began in the fourth quarter of 1998, following the Russian crisis and subsequent turbulence in international financial markets. These financial factors initiated the recession, but when Brazil, Argentina's largest trading partner, devalued its currency, conditions worsened. Falling commodity prices and unfavorable agricultural weather contributed to the Argentine economic downturn.

At the end of 1999, the economy began to gradually recover from the recession. As part of 2000 budget preparations, the Argentine government had projected real GDP growth of 3.5% in 2000, but most outside observers in recent months have lowered their projections to the 2% to 2.5% range, as the recovery has been more sluggish than expected.

Key challenges remain reforming the country's rigid labor code and addressing the precarious financial situation of several highly indebted provinces.

G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$10,000 (purchasing power parity), -3% G.D.P. growth rate, -2% inflation (all 1999 estimates).

Currency: Argentine peso. Pegged to the U.S. dollar at an exchange rate of 1 peso per U.S. dollar.

Exports: U.S.$23 billion (f.o.b., 1999), cereals, edible oils, fuel and energy.

Imports: U.S.$25 billion (c.i.f., 1999), machinery, equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals.

Major crops/agricultural products: Wheat, maize, soybeans, beef.

Wheat: Historically a key crop, wheat production in the past five years averaged 15 million tonnes a year, with exports averaging 10.5 million. Consumption has been stable at about 4.5 million tonnes annually.

Maize: Maize output averaged 16 million tonnes a year in the past five years, with exports averaging 9.7 million tonnes.

Soybeans:. Since the early 1990s, Argentina has become a major soybean producer, averaging 18.9 million tonnes a year in the past five years. The country also imports an average of 830,000 tonnes for its booming domestic processing industry, as the country has focused on exporting value-added oilseed products.

Transportation: Rail, 38,326 km, mostly 1.676-m gauge; highways, 215,434 km, 63,553 paved; major grain ports are San Martin/San Lorenzo, Rosario, Bahia Blanca, Buenos Aires, Necochea.

Data

(1,000 tonnes)

Production

Consumption

Exports

Imports

Wheat

16,500

4,500

12,000

25

Flour

4,555

N.A.

601

N.A.

Maize

15,500

7,000

8,700

0

Soybeans

23,000

18,380

4,700

500

2000-01 marketing year estimates for wheat, maize, soybeans; 1999 for flour production; 1998 for flour exports

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, International Grains Council

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