Customs has suspended the export licenses of 59 companies for failing to convert their dollar export earnings into pesos in the timeframe required by Argentine law. The move comes after a federal courthouse dismissed a legal complaint by one of the companies that the requirements were unconstitutional.
The suspensions and disciplinary inquiries were conducted within the framework of a November 2022 Customs norm by which, if export earnings are not liquidated within 10 days, Customs can preemptively suspend a business’s export license while it investigates the operation.
The companies involved were mostly exporters of products such as oils, cereals, tobacco, meats, wool, fruits, and vegetables.
Exporters are required to change dollars from overseas earnings into pesos, either at the official exchange rate or, in some cases, at special sector-specific rates. This must be done by selling the dollars to the Central Bank. However, companies in these sectors often flout the requirements, according to Customs. “They leave [the dollars] overseas or they convert them to the blue-chip swap rate,” a Customs press release stated.
The blue-chip swap rate, also known as contado con liqui or CCL, is used exclusively in the financial world. It is obtained by investors buying shares and financial instruments in pesos and selling them in dollars on the international market. The “CCL dollar” is the implicit exchange rate in that operation.
Exporters receive less than half as many pesos per dollar at the official exchange rate: at the time of writing, the blue-chip swap rate is AR$453 per dollar, while the official exchange rate is AR$222. Exporters of certain agricultural goods can use the “agro dollar III” exchange rate of AR$300.
The license suspensions come at a time of critical international reserve scarcity, which was deepened by a drought that further reduced Argentina’s dollar income.
“We are going through the worst drought since 1922 to date,” Customs Director Guillermo Michel said. He said that the lack of controls on exporters’ compliance with foreign exchange regulations has led to “an exponential growth” of companies that do not liquidate their exports correctly.
“Our goal is to defend the international reserves for national industry and the generation of employment.”
Recently, a federal courthouse in Rosario decided to dismiss a complaint by El Cerco, a soybean exporter from Entre Ríos, which had filed a writ of protection arguing the 2022 norm was “unconstitutional and inapplicable.”