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Argentina sets up a beef export registry, stoking fears of limits on shipments

BUENOS AIRES, April 20 (Reuters) - Argentina on Tuesday reestablished a meat export registration system, stoking fears among cattle ranchers of possible export limits as the government tries to hold down domestic food prices in the face of double-digit inflation.

A resolution published Tuesday in the government’s gazette said the registration system for foreign sales was necessary to help avoid “possible imbalances in the domestic meat market in terms of supply, price and quality”.

Farmers and ranchers fear an increase in regulations aimed at limiting international shipments, after previous Peronist governments tried unsuccessfully to tame domestic food price inflation by clamping down on food exports.

The registration of beef exports and limits on shipments were imposed during the 2008-2015 administrations of former President Cristina Fernandez, but were scrapped by her successor Mauricio Macri.

“We express our most absolute rejection of the reinstatement of the export registry, in this case for meat, and other interventionist measures,” the farm sector said in a statement issued by the country’s main rural organizations.

“Behind these measures hides the mistaken view that the generalized rise in prices responds to the fact that the food market presents tensions between exports and the domestic market,” it added.

Argentina is one of the world’s main suppliers of beef and grains, but President Alberto Fernandez has a tense relationship with the agricultural sector. A fellow Peronist, he is not related to Cristina Fernandez, but she does currently serve as his vice president and head of the Senate.

The government moved to limit wheat and corn exports early this year as part of its anti-inflation program, but later backed off the proposals following hard opposition from farmers and export companies. (Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Jan Harvey)