Apple imports amounted to 2,600 tons last year. That is 2,300% more than in 2016, when the country only imported 113 tons of apples for the local market.
While this figure is nominally important, it only represents less than 1% of the domestic market's total consumption. Despite this, there is concern among entrepreneurs and producers who send part of their supply of fresh apples to this destination.
"We are concerned about what the import trends are showing," stated Marcelo Loyarte, the manager of the CAFI.
This situation is somewhat paradoxical considering that, last year, wholesalers and supermarkets took advantage of the easing of barriers to import hundreds of tons of fruit from Chile, while producers gave away part of their crop to protest at a lack of profitability.
"In principle we are against import barriers, as we don't want barriers for our products abroad. However, it's important to monitor the price of the fruit entering the country," the executive said.
Historically, the imported apples have helped in levelling the domestic market's prices when they skyrocket. Apple imports were banned between 2008 and 2014 to protect the local production against their low, competitive prices.
The government of Mauricio Macri started a process of easing for most imports and it seems this process includes apples. According to official statistics, the country started importing apples from May 2016 and imports peaked in the last quarter of the year, a period that coincides with the highest prices achieved by apples in the internal market. Chile accounts for more than 90% of third country placements in Argentina.
Moreover, the official income value for a sack of apples stood at an average of $12 dollars.
The private sector is concerned that this growing trend of apple imports will continue in 2017, when there is a clear drop in the market's demand.
The Minister of Production, Francisco Cabrera, said this week that the government was open to more imports to promote competition, if product prices surpassed global market prices. This policy's ultimate goal is to control inflation and have local prices converge towards international prices.