Tampon Shortage in Buenos Aires Has Government Blaming Media

A lack of tampons in Argentina over the past few weeks is due to a surge in demand caused by irresponsible media reports, Commerce Secretary Augusto Costa said, denying that import controls were to blame.

“There was a sort of tampons run,” Costa said in a Radio Del Plata interview late yesterday. “It was induced by media operations.”

Three pharmacies in the Buenos Aires neighborhoods of Palermo and Puerto Madero had no tampons today, and “Tampons Run” was trending on Twitter in Argentina. MercadoLibre, a shopping website, showed a surge in listings for tampons, with packets of 20 being sold for 110 pesos ($12.80).

The government restricts imports, requiring authorization from regulators to bring in goods, in an effort to curb the decline in international reserves, which have fallen 40 percent since their high in 2011. Miguel Ponce, the chair of the Argentine Chamber of Importers, blamed the tampon shortage on the government, saying on Radio Mitre today that the central bank owes importers about $5.5 billion for authorized purchases.

Costa said companies supplying the product couldn’t meet demand because of “logistical issues,” and that the shortages aren’t related to import restrictions. The three main suppliers in the country import the product from Brazil, he said.

“The current situation is not sustainable, as the government is avoiding selling foreign currency in the FX market only by heavily repressing imports,” Guillermo Mondino, the head of emerging-market strategy at Citigroup Inc., wrote in a report today. “External financing is necessary to normalize this situation.”

There was a “total restriction of foreign exchange” from Dec. 20 to Jan. 5, which explains shortages in some products, including tampons, Ponce said. The peso weakened 0.1 percent in that period and now trades at 8.59 per dollar.

Central bank President Alejandro Vanoli denied restrictions in the authorization and payment of imports and said the monetary authority approved $1.3 billion between those dates.

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