Argentina's Fernandez slams supermarkets for 'price speculation'

BUENOS AIRES Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:14pm EST

BUENOS AIRES Feb 12 (Reuters) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez criticized supermarket chains and said they could face consequences for what she claimed was price speculation on basic products, as the government tries to keep a lid on inflation.

Fernandez said consumers had denounced supermarkets for not complying with a recent voluntary agreement between the government and food suppliers to contain the price of goods including beef, sugar and yerba mate tea.

"We are going to take all the measures that we have to," said Fernandez in a speech at the presidential palace broadcast on television on Wednesday.

"Why does Argentina lack yerba? That is speculation pure and simple."

In December, the Argentine government introduced its third attempt in less than 12 months to freeze prices on basic goods.

The country is dealing with high inflation, estimated privately at over 25 percent in 2013, with a sharp currency devaluation in January adding to pressure on prices.

January's inflation figure, which will be published on Thursday, is forecast to have hit a decade-high of 5.5 percent, according to a Reuters poll.

The main supermarket chains in Argentina include France's Carrefour, local chain Coto, and units of Chile's Cencosud and U.S. giant WalMart.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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