Moreno letter to food body comes to light

Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno
Following on from Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno’s verbal decision last week to put an end to foreign food imports, a letter he wrote to Amnat, obliging the body’s assistance, came to light yesterday.

Addressed to the director of the National Adminstration of Medicine, Food and Technology (Anmat), Dr. Carlos Chiale, the letter was dated April 23 and asked Chilae to “articulate the tools so as to have integral knowledge of each operation with regards to food products that originate from other countries that are related to entering the internal market.”

It added: “It is necesary to notify this Secretary (Domestic Trade)” in order to obtain a “better and greater articulation with other areas of the government,” even though Amnat falls under the Ministry of Health’s remit.

Anmat sources told the Herald’s sister website that “they confirmed they would put together a list of food stuffs — which meet the conditions to enter the country — and send it to the Secretary, who finally gives his opinion on whether the import will go ahead or not.”

Yesterday evening Anmat clarified that the body simply evaluates “the sanitary condition of products” and that the Domestic Trade Secretariat is “who defines which ones enter the country.”

Moreno has indicated that the prohibition is an attempt at curbing spiralling prices on national food products and would also apply to medicine.

The only clear decision taken regarding the restriction, which seemingly applies to all foreign products that have a national equivalent, is its June 1 start date. Banned goods would include Brazilian sweetcorn, German lager, French cheese, Italian pesto and pasta and North American peanut butter among dozens of others. The ban gives importers just three weeks to put it into practice.

Jumbo and Disco supermarkets, which are owned by Chile’s Cencosud retail group, would immediately suffer repercussions as they sell goods from snacks to alcohol which have been imported, as would many Chinese- and Korean-owned supermarkets in Buenos Aires.

While the overall picture remains fuzzy, consumer organisations were reluctant to talk to the Herald yesterday. Casrech, the body representing Chinese resident shop owners in Buenos Aires, did not get back to the Herald’s request for an interview, and neither did Cira, the National Importers’ Chamber.

However, the economy minister stepped in yesterday to clarify that a consistent attitude would be taken with regard to the internal market although he failed to confirm that the import ban would take place. In a radio interview with La red, Amado Boudou said the government will protect the internal market “rationally” and that it is “permanently following” all services and industrial sectors. He added that “what needs to be looked after is the internal market and Argentine producers.”

Boudou played down the consequences of the proposed import ban, saying, “The tone of a situation has been blown out of proportion.

“Argentina needs to look after its own economy, our jobs and the companies that have invested in Argentina, and we will continue to do so.”

He added: “That is what serious countries do, they all rationally look after their internal markets.”

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