Welcome to the class blogging pages for Econ 210 – Argentina and World Agricultural Markets.

The students and I will be giving our reflections on our visits with experts in Argentina. Our travels will take us to Bueno Aires, Rosario, Santa Fe, San Justo (SF), and Mendoza.

Use the Categories links on the right to get posts and pictures from specific places along the way.

Check back often for updates!

Adios Argentina

As our final days wind down in Argentina I have time to reflect on our amazing month as I sit by the pool in Buenos Aires. The trip went by very quickly as it seems like we were just touring Buenos Aires the other day. We learned a lot about the impact that agriculture has on the Argentine Economy. From soybean fields to the vineyards of Mendoza, we were able to see the many different agricultural sectors of Argentina.

My favorite city of the trip was San Justo. The resort that we stayed was beautifully placed just below the Andes Mountains. The resort was secluded with very nice cabanas and a nice pool. We had a very fun group cookout with about 15 people from the group. In addition, the resort dog, India, joined us to pick up the extra scraps.

In terms of academics, I really enjoyed learning about wine in Argentina. Mendoza was where we mainly learned about wine because it is the wine capital of the world.

I will miss my time and friends in Argentina! It was a great trip!

Final Farewell

When I first arrived in Argentina, I was unsure of what to expect of the economic situation. I had heard of the country’s economic slowdown, and not much else. I was quite surprised, then, when throughout the course we learned of how complex the economy’s problems are, particularly relating to Agriculture, and also by how quintessentially Argentinian they are. From the nation’s ongoing debate over export duties, government policies, the shifting and emerging markets for beer and wine, weather problems, collapsing dairy cooperatives, and more, the situation has more to it then meets the eye. However, if there was any major point to be learned across this diverse experience, it was that Argentina has been gifted with a very competitive agricultural sector.

At every discussion, lecture, farm, or winery we visited, I was consistently surprised by how innovative, energetic, and forward thinking the individuals of the agricultural sector are, especially in a nation that has chronic problems with corruption, inefficiency, and low productivity. This, in combination with low overall costs, means that the sector has a competitive advantage compared to those of other nations. This should mean that Argentinian producers can have margins large enough to continue innovating and expanding, yet government policies on everything from export duties, cooperatives, and even ordinary taxes leave producers with extra costs and bureaucracy to wade through, leaving margins lower and reducing competitiveness.

As we learned during our tours, Argentina has had a fruitful past relying on agriculture to drive the nation’s economy, leading our tour guide to proclaim that the French would once say of an affluent person that he’s, “As rich as an Argentine!”. And while the circumstances of a modern economy and globalized markets have changed Argentina since then, there is still no reason why Argentina should not take advantage of their most competitive sector to attempt to finally solve the problems that have plagued their economy throughout recent memory. Demand for Argentinian grains and meats will only increase as other emerging economies gain an appetite for these goods, and recent trade tensions in the United States have shown that there is more room for the soy and other grain industries of Argentina to grow into. Hopefully, with a new direction in government policy and a further emphasis on innovating and refining their successful existing processes, such as no-till agriculture, Argentina’s agricultural sector will finally be able to go on the offensive once again.

¡Hasta la próxima, Argentina! (Until next time)

Most of us have checked out of the hotel and are weighing our bags to make sure they are not overweight. Our bus comes this afternoon and our overnight flight gets to the U.S. early tomorrow morning.

Here are some views of our last few days in BsAs.

The “Subte” Line D/Green at the Tribunales station. A ride costs about $0.40 for as far as you want to go.

The artisan booths in San Telmo. Lots of presents for the folks back home were purchased here.

The Cabildo on the the Plaza de Mayo.

La Posada de Jamon

While in Tunuyan, we stayed at a place called La Posada del Jamon. It was really cool to stay at a place that is both a winery and a swinery – (they also handle swine production). It is a family company that was started by the father and expanded to the children. Now it is an amazing tourist attraction that is considered a route. It houses guests in cabins, is home to a Malbec vineyard and swinery (as mentioned), livestock, and many fruit trees including nectarines and peaches. It was relatively luxurious living as it was beautiful countryside near the Andes Mountains. We had a pool where the background that consisted of the vineyard and the Andes. On the first evening, a group of us decided to try our hand at a meal in which the locals call “parilla.” Logan and Ian took charge of the fire burning grill to make some nice steaks and chorizo. The following day, we took a tour of the vineyard and the swine production area. It was rewarding to experience a farm-to-table place that was against pesticides. The last night we were in Tunuyan, we went to a restaurant where the mother of the waitress was the only cook. The group I was in agreed that it was the best dinner we had had. It was a 4-course deal with some local dishes, and it was truly amazing. La Posada del Jamon offered us the perfect balance of luxury and country side.

Random Conversations with Argentinians

Having been able to speak Spanish on this trip has been a huge asset which has allowed me to learn about the public opinion on both the economy and the government. I have had many random conversations with locals in just about every city that we’ve visited, whether it be someone on the street, a taxi driver, or a new friend made in a bar. Just about everyone had something to say after learning that I was here studying economics. Some responded with, “well you’ve come to the wrong place for that”, jokingly since the economy is in recession with a 50% inflation rate. Others went into detail about explaining to me exactly what was wrong with the government’s fiscal policies, many of which I’d learned about in class, however, it was nice to hear about them from locals who experience it firsthand. Only a few days ago, an elderly man stopped me on the street, asked if I was a tourist and then started a 30 minute conversation with me about the economy, after learning that I was in Argentina studying the economy. We talked about export taxes as well as the wasted economic potential of Argentina. He gave me his reasons for why the Kirchner’s populist policies were the incorrect ones for Argentina and how Macri, the current president, is terrible at governing. His main point that he wanted me to take away from our chat was that Argentina has had years of poor governance and that all they need is one good leader that would fulfill the country’s economic potential. Whether it’s that simple, who’s to say?

La Posada del Jamon

During our stay in the Mendoza region, we got the luxury of staying at a resort in Tunuyan called La Posada del Jamon. In addition to housing, this resort also has a full vineyard, a swine operation, an orchard of fresh fruit, and a garden where they get the fresh produce for the salads. During our tour of the facility, we were told that a famous winemaker was having dinner at the restaurant prior and told the owners that when the grapes became ready to make wine with, to call him. Ever since, that has been the wine that they have produced. Later in our tour we were able to see the barrels that they store the wine in as well as if they have any extra grapes, one of the relatives makes his own blend of wine. We then went to the swine operation where they have the curing meat on display for anyone to see. Overall it was a great experience to stay at a family run place. It was really cool to be in a place where all of the food that was served was made on the premises. (Also side note, this place had the best Milanesa in all of Argentina.)

What the Argentinians had to say:

Throughout this course, we learned about how the citizens of Argentina are affected by the changing economic conditions.  Outside of class, many people stopped us and talked to us about why we were here and where we were from.  After sharing that we were here to learn about the economy, many had their own input.  One woman I talked with at a restaurant mentioned how she would love to move to the United States, but since rent in Buenos Aires is so high, she can’t save, so she can’t afford to move.  This reminded me of some of our class content– high real estate prices in the city as well as inflation and a weak peso affecting the Argentinian’s ability to save.  In one of my taxi rides, the driver talked about how great Perón was for the economy and how he encouraged production.  He thought this was good because according to him, Argentina does not produce enough to be exported and import too much.  He also talked about wanting to see more development of industry in Argentina instead of just agriculture.  We had talked about how there were two different ideas on how to develop the economy– through industry or through agriculture.  We also talked a lot about Argentine exports and products.  He also agreed with Dr. Stieger that the Kircher’s were not good presidents, and Macri is better but still not good.

Last Week Reflection

As the trip comes to end, we are asked to reflect on the things we have learned and experienced. From our first visit to CREA to our last visit to Tempus Alba, we have had the chance to visit with many experts and see many different places that the average tourist does not see. As we have had lots of time to finish working on our papers here for our last few days in Buenos Aires, and our trip to the U.S. Embassy was cancelled, the last few days in Argentina have been very laid back. I have found this country and this culture very intriguing and amusing, and a few of my favorite visits on the trip have been to San Justo’s City Hall, to the Tempus Alba Winery, and our stay at the La Posada del Jamon in Tunuyán. With subzero temperatures and lots of snow at home, it will be very difficult to leave 85 and sunny. Overall, an amazing month with a great group of people, thank you Professor Becker and Tracy for all of your time and effort put into organizing this trip!

Tempus Alba Winery🍷

To finish off our day of wine production, we went to the winery portion of Tempus Alba. It was a lovely place, with a nice rooftop restaurant to top it off. During our tour of the winery, Dr. Aldo Biondolillo told us even more about the wines produced there and related it back to our discussion of vine cloning. Below is a photo of the barrels the wines are stored in before they are bottled.

After our initial tour of the winery, we heard a lecture by Dr. Aldo. His lecture focused on the wine industry exports and what has changed within the wine industry domestically. Due to an oversupply of wine, it has caused the price of wine to decrease which demonstrates an over-saturation on the product side. Due to this, smaller producers have had to go out of business because they were not making enough money to keep with technological advances or having the ability to have a wider variety of wines. It is really sad to hear about smaller producers going out of business because it reminds me of small businesses by my house in the states. You always hope the small business will make it because there is a different vibe compared to a large corporation/business. The smaller businesses tend to be full of people who truly care about the work they are doing which is their main motivation to succeed, not always pushed by monetary gains. Hearing about Tempus Alba, that is how they seem to be as well. They are striving to find the best Malbec grapes to help the whole wine producing community, not just themselves. This visit was wonderful and I can’t wait to see how this winery compares to the ones I will see in the states!

Magnificent Manure!

In San Justo we went to the Sociedad Rural (SR) and we were able to hear a lecture about manure that was surprisingly very interesting! The presenter was Rubén Alonso Alcatraz, and he is a swine farmer in Argentina. A problem that these farmers face is the 8 liters of manure the each pig produces in a single day. We learned that because the pigs have a single gastric system, which is the same as us humans, reusing it has the potential of giving humans diseases. Runoff from the manure has been entering rivers, and although the water table is currently not contaminated, if not actions are taken, it will be. Thus, Alcatraz has embarked on a quest to figure out a solution on how to get rid of the manure, in a way that is safe to humans, as well as for the environment.

He has visited other countries with the same problem to see how they have tried to combat the situation. Through his travels, he combined different countries manure processes and has come up with a mechanical system of his own. With no engineering background, Alcatraz designed and built the entire system himself (with a little help of course!) and is able to turn 5,000 gallons of affluent into just18 cubic feet. That is just astonishing! On top of this, he is the only pork producer in Argentina who has a certificate that certifies that he does not contaminate the environment. This guy is amazing, and it was a truly a pleasure to get to hear about his achievements. Lastly, Alcatraz has undergone these efforts not for any financial gain, but just the fact that it is an environmental problem that needs to be addressed, and since no one has decided to fix it, he has.