Due to Argentinian Export ‘fees’ fruit and vegetables are taking some interesting diversions.
Agriculture is together with mining the most important export sector of Argentina. Besides meat and grains there are two sectors where the country is on the forefront of supplying countries: pears and lemons. Other items like corn are following suit. In the Far West of Argentina bordering the Cordillera des los Andes and Chile the province of Mendoza is wellknown for its wines, but also for cherries, stone fruit — and garlic. The lustre of this export item has faded due to competition from China and Spain, but only a little bit. The garlic from Argentina has an outstanding taste, and the root comes in off season for customers in the Norther Hemisphere.
The shipping pattern should be easy: trucking from Mendoza 800 km (500 miles) to the East coast port, board the direct container vessel to Europe, after 19 days the box will call one of the European ports, another two days the customer will receive the shipment. But — unfortunately it is not THAT easy. Did you know that Argentina is — according to my knowledge — the only country in the world which penalizes exports with fees called ‘retenciones’? Not enough with that : now the port fees and taxes have risen to exorbitant levels, which indeed are prohibitive. Traders in general are very creative. If they are not, they are gone. The way a garlic shipment is going seems to be and adventure but for common sense it is just — ridiculous.
The road — one of the few asphalted roads between the two countries — follows the Río Mendoza to the Punta de Vacas on 3’209 m, and trucks are going West through the Túnel del Cristo Redentor, two-way, 3’080 m, each half on both sides of the border. The road from Cuevas on the Chilean side is quite steep and it is by far no easy riding. If the tunnel is accessible, the transit time to the port Valparaíso is about 30 hours. Valparaíso is the most important and a very busy port and waiting there for loading the ship can last for 4-5 days. Once loaded the container vessel, preferably without calling a port in Peru or Colombia, heads for the Panama Canal. arriving fifteen hours at the Puente de las Américas at Panama City and another fifteen days in one of the main European ports. On this adventurous trip the costs involved are enormous, but still lower than the fees asked by the Argerntinean port authority.
Leaving the country by air and the international airport of Ezeiza one can see into the future. In model size you can see the containers loaded on piggback railcars speeding through the tunnel between Mendoza and Los Andes in Chile, reaching Santiago in a few hours. Obviously there are agreeements between the two countries regarding the construction, but no tunnel excavator like at the Channel tunnel has been in operation yet. Will the new administration in Argentina as of October 2015 change this situation? Question marks are adviseable.