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Updated Mar 6, 2024, 11:35am EST
South America
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Semafor Signals

Why Argentina is going hungry

Insights from El País, Página 12, and Agencia Presentes

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Argentina food bank
REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
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The News

Demand for soup kitchens in Argentina is soaring as the country’s poverty rate topped 57%, a 20-year high.

Just months into Javier Milei’s presidency, more than 10% of the Argentine population — many of them children — are struggling to find enough food. Even meat — the backbone of Argentine cuisine — is now a “distant memory” for many, according to Foreign Policy.

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The issues have been brewing for years, with only a handful of players negotiating shelf prices. Though Milei’s austerity program has been welcomed by international financial institutions, his budget cuts have left soup kitchens struggling to keep up with demand.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Argentina exports most of its food, leaving little for public

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Source:  
El País

Argentina remains one of the largest food producers in the world, yet it “does not produce food to feed its population but to enrich its producers,” Argentine writer Martín Caparrós wrote for El País. Many locally-grown crops are diverted to feed livestock, the majority of which is then sold overseas at higher prices. The result is thousands flooding to soup kitchens, but because of Milei’s extreme budget cuts, most centers have stopped receiving food. “The breadbasket of the world is hungry, and [Milei’s] government is not taking care of it,” Caparrós argued.

Monopolies continue to control prices

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Sources:  
Página 12, Buenos Aires Times

Around 25% of Argentina’s food production companies collapsed between 2003 and 2018, according to leftist paper Página 12, leaving only 20 companies in charge of providing nearly three-quarters of all products on grocery shelves today. Previous governments introduced price controls to force costs down, but Milei scrapped such initiatives as part of his economic overhaul. The small concentration of companies responsible for food production means that the government has been unable to effectively negotiate with them on keeping prices low for consumers. “There is no market freedom without fair competition and equal opportunities for all producers,” Página 12 argued.

Government overhaul boots trans people from welfare benefits

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Sources:  
La Voz, El Norte, Agencia Presentes

Milei warned Argentines that his “shock therapy” would make economic situations worse before they got better, and his government has increased the amount of funding for state-provided food welfare cards to compensate for expected price hikes. But other components of Milei’s reforms have included slashing federal agencies and gutting the Ministry of Women, Genders and Diversity, which had special food welfare programs for trans Argentines. Payments for that welfare program have now also been suspended, multiple Argentine outlets reported Tuesday. Other social subsidy funds for LGBTQ+ communities are also emptying as a result of Milei’s budget cuts. “If it is not a lack of food, it’s a lack of rent and medicine,” one economist told Agencia Presentes, a Latin America LGBTQ+-focused website.

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