Argentine Supermarkets Extend Price Freeze to Tame Inflation

Argentine supermarkets agreed to extend a freeze on prices until the end of May as the government seeks to tame 25 percent inflation, the fastest in the Western Hemisphere.

The freeze by supermarkets, including local units of the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), France’s Carrefour SA (CA) and Chile’s Cencosud SA (CENCOSUD), began Feb. 1 and was scheduled to expire April 1. To lighten the impact of the extended freeze, supermarkets will create a partnership to issue shopping cards that will charge retailers 1 percent commission compared with the 3 percent charged by credit card companies, Juan Vasco Martinez, head of the Supermarket Association said.

“We agreed to extend the price freeze until May 31,” Vasco said in an interview with CN23 television. “We’re working on issuing the cards as soon as possible to reduce commissions.”

Argentina, South America’s second-largest economy, was censured by the International Monetary Fund on Feb. 1 for underreporting official inflation data. A report published by opposition lawmakers and prepared by independent economists estimated prices rose 25 percent in the year to Feb. 28 while the government’s statistics agency put the increase at 10.8 percent. In February, prices rose 0.5 percent from January, according to the agency, compared with the 1.2 percent estimate by the economists, who aren’t named because they would be exposed to fines for releasing statistics that aren’t in line with official data.

State-run news agency Telam reported that supermarket executives met today with Interior Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno to discuss prices and credit card commissions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Cancel in Buenos Aires at dcancel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net

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