BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — The local plastics sector should get a boost as Argentina exports more packaged foods, such as processed beef, yogurt and cooking oil, industry officials said during Argenplas 2000, held April 3-8 in Buenos Aires. An agricultural powerhouse, Argentina has long been a strong exporter of foods. But historically, that has meant shipping out the basic raw-material foods to other countries where they are processed and packaged.
Often the finished goods end up back in Argentina, on grocery store shelves, according to Nestor Krasnansky, who runs Simko SA, a Buenos Aires manufacturers' representative firm.
"One clear example is edible oil," he said. "Edible oil was exported without refining, in bulk shipments." Ships took the raw oil to Brazil, or even to faraway ports in Spain and Japan.
But now Argentina is refining and exporting more of its own oil — packaged in PET bottles.
That's music to the ears of Fabio Seabra, regional manager at Husky Injection Molding Systems Argentina SA in Buenos Aires. In Canada, Husky makes injection molding machines that turn out thin-wall packaging like yogurt tubs, and for PET preforms, which are blow molded into bottles.
Seabra wants to see Argentina process and export more products such as yogurt, jams and cheese, instead of sending bulk milk and fruit to other countries.
Argentina also is exporting more finished wine to the United States and Europe — though glass, not plastic, is the preferred packaging. Argentina used to export mostly unfermented grape juice in bulk to wine-producing countries.
Now, all eyes are turning to the domestic beef industry. Increased demand for convenience foods has fostered a growing meat-processing sector. Argentines, who regularly load up on Flinstonian steaks, ate about 140 pounds of beef per capita last year — more than twice the U.S. rate.
Exports are growing now that world is gaining an appetite for Argentine beef — grass-fed and free from hormones and antibiotics. In 1997, the United States lifted a 70-year ban on fresh-meat imports from Argentina after receiving proof that Argentina had eradicated hoof-and-mouth disease.
At the Simko booth at Argenplas, Krasnansky — whose firm represents several U.S. manufacturers of plastics equipment — said a growing packaging sector could help sales.
"But we need help from the government in order to import the machines without duties," he said.
Krasnansky has a more-direct reason for supporting local food processors: Simko also runs factories that injection mold PET preforms in Pilar, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay.