Argentina agro-export chamber reports 17% jump in 2019 member sales

By Hernan Nessi

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Argentine agro-industrial export chamber CIARA-CEC said on Monday its members exported $23.719 billion dollars of grains in 2019, up 17% over the previous year despite months of economic crisis in the South American nation.

The chamber, whose members include global agro-giants such as Cargill Inc and Bunge Ltd, accounts for about 45% of Argentina´s grain exports annually.

"This year's sales are among the highest of the past 17 years, and the highest taking into account the low international prices currently," CIARA-CEC said in a statement.

Argentina, a top global supplier of soybeans, corn and soymeal livestock feed, was rocked by recession, rising inflation and a plummeting peso in 2019. The chamber attributed the resiliency in exports to a large and successful harvest, and to an increase in sales by producers in November and December.

December exports hit $2.223 billion, the chamber said, the highest since 2002.

CIARA-CEC warned in a statement that stability would be necessary to keep up the pace.

"To achieve normal sales we will need a stable exchange rate and rules for trade," CIARA-CEC said.

The new government of Peronist Alberto Fernandez, inaugurated in early December, hiked taxes on soybean exports to 33% from about 25%, while international shipments of corn and wheat will be taxed at 15%, up from about 7% previously.

Argentine Agriculture Minister Luis Basterra has nonetheless started talking with farmers about the possibility of applying lower taxes to growers located farther from ports. Grain exports are a key driver of the Argentine economy.

(Reporting by Hernan Nessi; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Richard Chang)

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