Argentina sets grocery price controls for 90 days to tame inflation

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s government announced on Friday a price agreement for supermarkets to limit monthly increases to a maximum of 5% for 90 days as the country tries to tamp down triple-digit inflation as a high-stakes election looms.

Economy Minister Sergio Massa made the announcement after a meeting with supermarket representatives, noting that officials reached the deal with representatives of 31 local supermarket chains to “stabilize” prices until national elections scheduled for October.

Massa himself is running for president as the standard-bearer of the ruling Peronist coalition, after he won its nomination in last Sunday’s primary vote.

The center-left minister will face off against radical libertarian Javier Milei, the top vote getter in the nationwide primary, and center-right hopeful Patricia Bullrich.

The agreement takes into account tax benefits for those supermarkets that do not increase prices above 5% per month, besides a credit program for small and medium-sized companies that supply supermarkets, the ministry said in a statement.

The move follows other price-freezing initiatives from the government to contain surging annual inflation, which topped 113% in July. Consumer prices are expected to rise further in August after Milei’s shock primary win led to a sharp peso devaluation.

“The objective of this deal is to prevent the variation in the official exchange rate – which responds to an (International Monetary Fund) condition – from being transferred to the prices of mass consumption products, negatively impacting the pocket books of all Argentines,” the statement added.

On Thursday, the ministry announced it would freeze fuel prices until October 31 after an agreement with the industry.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Diane Craft)