Argentina's government extended beef export restrictions on Tuesday until the end of October, seeking to bolster domestic supply to help contain rising local food prices, according to a decree published in the official gazette.
The move comes months before key mid-term elections, with centre-left President Alberto Fernandez keen to avoid a sharp rise in the cost of beef in a country where families regularly get together to cook meat around the "asado" grill.
Spiralling consumer prices could hurt his party's chances with voters already facing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government had in June limited exports of some specific beef cuts until the end of the year and set a cap on beef shipments at 50% of the previous year's level until the end of August. The latter cap has now been extended by two months.
"In the short term, the tool of limiting sales abroad is essential to guarantee Argentine access to beef in the face of the sharp increase in prices for consumers," the government said in the decree.
The measure has sparked tensions between the government and the powerful farm sector. Argentina is the world's fifth-largest beef exporter and a key supplier to China. It is also the top global exporter of processed soy and a major wheat and corn producer.
The South American country has suffered from high inflation for years with the annual rate now running above 50%. It has just started to emerge this year from a recession since 2018.
The head of Argentina's CICCRA meat industry chamber, Miguel Schiariti, told Reuters the sector had lost around $100 million in exports last month alone due to the restrictions and said the measures could even adversely push up prices.
Another industry source said that the restrictions were handing the momentum to other global beef producers.
"It is a pity that the government does not understand the damages of extending the cap, since the industry has lost millions of dollars with the restrictions so far and it is a way to continue giving markets to other countries," he said.