Argentina: pig mega-farms for the Chinese market

Buenos Aires | Argentina wants to step into the court of the world’s big pork producers by signing a partnership with China that would see the construction of mega-farms, to the chagrin of conservationists.

From some 25,000 tonnes of pork exported in 2019, Argentina would aim, if the partnership is ratified next month, to reach 300,000 tonnes per year, when the farms are in full swing.

“Chile exports 250,000 tonnes of pork and Brazil 700,000 tonnes. We are not talking about something huge for Argentina “, tempers the person in charge of international economic relations within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Neme, questioned on the dimension of commercial ambitions.

Argentina, known for the quality of its beef, has since the start of the year increased its pork exports by 66% to 22,000 tonnes in just six months, according to the agriculture ministry.

The Argentine government, which intends to boost its exports from 65 to 100 billion dollars a year, welcomes the signing of this pork partnership with China.

“Diversification” of markets

China, the only country whose economy did not contract during the Covid-19 pandemic, is currently the main importer of Argentine products, supplanting Brazil, historically Argentina’s largest trading partner.

“What Argentina exports to China, agricultural commodities, is the least exposed product” commercially in the context of a pandemic. “This is why exports to this market are growing,” Patricia Krause, Latin America economist for French credit insurer Coface, told AFP.

Argentina balances its experience in exporting animal meat and the country’s freedom from swine diseases.

China is seeking to diversify its supply of pig meat, one of the pillars of its diet, after the impact of African swine fever, which has affected Europe since 2018.

For meme Krause, the choice of Argentina and not Brazil, a major pork exporter to China, “is linked to these choices of market diversification.”

Germán Paats, pig producer in the province of Buenos Aires, believes that Argentina has all the assets to attract these new market shares: “we have the environment, the raw material, the genetics, and the necessary knowledge. to efficiently produce the best pork. If we do it right, we can be the partner China needs, ”he believes.

Mega farms

A symbol of unreasonable agricultural production, the planned mega-farms in Argentina have raised concern among conservationists who have demonstrated in recent weeks in Buenos Aires.

“Argentina has been in the grip of agribusiness for a very long time. But these mega-farms are a thing of the past, they endanger the whole of humanity, whether they are located in Argentina, China or Dubai, “said Soledad Barruti, journalist and researcher in the food industry.

“They are a source of disease proliferation, extremely cruel, do not provide better food and do not solve the problem of hunger,” she adds.

On the contrary for the official of the Ministry of Agriculture, “mega-farms are necessary because they meet the needs of export markets”.

“This isn’t a pig raised on the backs of a small farm that it is. We are talking about traceability, biosecurity, refrigeration plant and slaughterhouses receiving authorizations from the countries where we are going to export “, he explained.

“Germany has 70 times more pigs per square kilometer than we do. No one can think that pigs in Germany pollute the environment all day long. Argentina’s production capacity is perfectly compatible with the environment, ”he said.

In an attempt to ward off criticism, the Argentine government has incorporated environmental clauses into the memorandum and is awaiting China’s position on the subject.

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