Argentina inflation spikes to 18-month high with meat prices in focus

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BUENOS AIRES, April 15 (Reuters) - Argentina consumer prices rose 4.8% in March, the fastest pace since late 2019, heaping pressure on the government as it looks to rein in stubbornly high inflation that is sapping growth and consumer spending power.

The monthly result, well above analyst forecasts of around 4%, saw 12-month rolling inflation hit 42.6%.

Economy Minister Martin Guzman said on Wednesday that March inflation would be the highest this year, though that price rises should cool from April.

The sharp rise was driven by food costs, especially politically-sensitive meat prices in the farming nation where families often converge on the weekend around the 'parrilla' grill, and where beef is a key part of the social fabric.

Meat prices rose 5.9% while education costs rose 28.5%.

The country has long battled stubbornly high inflation, with many Argentines wary of saving in the local peso currency and preferring to convert savings into dollars. That has weighed on the peso and forced the government to impose capital controls.

The government, in response to the heating-up prices, said it would roll out measures to bring down inflation and especially to keep down beef prices with tougher rules on meat exports to avoid "illegal and speculative practices".

"These actions have the objective of guaranteeing the supply of beef at affordable prices," the ministry said.

Other measures included agreements in the poultry supply chain to stabilize the availability and price of inputs including corn needed for feed. The ministry would also look to agree prices for construction materials and electronics.

Reporting by Jorge Iorio; Writing by Adam Jourdan

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