Source: Argentina GOV.; Reuters; Bloomberg
Date: 14th March 2023
Argentina is suffering an external balance of payment crisis and therefore strict foreign exchange controls have been imposed during 2022 which were stronger every month.
As a consequence of the imposed controls, payments for imports have been severely restricted. In addition, import licensing has become more extensive, and obtaining such licensing is getting increasingly burdensome for importers.
Import restrictions and barriers to USD access are already straining firms’ relationships with suppliers.
- In June 2022, Argentina’s Gov. tightened restrictions to USD access for imports, which the government then expanded in October. These restrictions are hitting hard on companies and corporations operating in the country, moreover, firms within the industrial sector could be forced to suspend production due to a lack of inputs, for instance, Fiat’s factory in the Córdoba province suspended production in late October.
- The restrictions implemented in June strained importers with non-automatic licenses, who were asked to wait up to six months to a year to access the USD needed to pay their suppliers. For firms with automatic licenses, an increasingly narrow group, access to USD was capped at 5% above the amount imported in 2021, with some key exceptions.
- In October, the government further tightened import restrictions by implementing the SIRA system to closely regulate import requests. The SIRA system facilitates SME operations by reducing the import payment timeline to 60 days (down from 180). However, larger firms are not only still subject to the 180-day timeline but are also experiencing increased barriers to securing import permits, severely impacting operations.
- Within two weeks of its implementation, the SIRA system had only approved 50.8% of operations, with the other half of the firms that applied unable to secure an import permit. Key actors in Argentina’s industrial sector, including mining, manufacturing, forestry, and auto, have warned the government that the USD crunch may lead them to suspend production.
Due to all the points mentioned above, there has been a decrease in the volume of imports, added to the summer season which usually reduces the number of operations and increased competition. The administrative process is to be followed to get approval for payments and to pay the agents. 2023 is an electoral year in Argentina, it is predictable to think that all these variables will remain stable throughout the year. Hopefully, they will not get worse, however, the currency crisis is strong and new restrictions may continue to occur.