Argentina Posts Smallest Trade Surplus Since 2001 as Grains Fall

Argentina last month posted the smallest trade surplus since March 2001 after grain exports plunged.

Argentina’s trade surplus dropped 88 percent in January from the same month a year ago to $35 million, the National Statistics Institute said today. That’s the smallest surplus for any month since 2001 and the worst for the month of January since an $84 million deficit in 2000. Analysts polled by Bloomberg forecast a $200 million surplus.

Total exports fell 8 percent to $5.231 billion last month as grain sales tumbled 58 percent while imports dropped 4 percent to $5.196 billion. Exports of raw goods from soybeans to cotton fell 39 percent on average while shipments of crude oil tumbled 19 percent.

In the aftermath of Argentina’s economic crisis beginning in 2001 that triggered a record default, former President Nestor Kirchner made keeping a trade and fiscal surplus his goal to steer the nation back to growth. His wife and current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has seen the primary fiscal surplus slip into a deficit and the trade balance narrow amid conflicts with farmers and a ballooning energy import bill.

Argentina’s trade surplus fell 27 percent in 2013 from a year earlier to $9 billion, dragged down by energy imports. The total energy deficit was a record $6.1 billion.

In January, fuel imports, which made up 10 percent of the total, fell 24 percent from a year earlier to $520 million.

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