Following the 12,5% raise in gas prices most oil companies decided after Monday’s devaluation, Economy Minister Sergio Massa announced on Thursday night that those prices will remain the same until October 31. The measure comes in addition to a price freeze agreed upon with supermarket chains, first announced on Tuesday but actually reached on Friday, and a freeze on medication prices announced on Friday.
“The [consequences of the] devaluation will fall partly on the consumer, the companies and the state, which will give up part of the [amount it receives via taxes],” Massa said regarding the gas price agreement, which was signed by producers, refiners, the Energy Secretariat, Customs, and the Federal Administration of Public Income (AFIP, for its Spanish initials.)
On Wednesday, Shell and Puma oil companies raised the average price of their gas and diesel fuels by 12.5% due to the 22% devaluation of the peso. State-owned YPF followed suit the next day. This was the second increase in fuel prices of the month —on August 1, companies raised their prices by 4.5%. The accumulated raise for fuels in August is 17.56%.
Additionally, the new Price Negotiation Unit launched on Tuesday agreed on a 90-day monthly 5% maximum price increase in consumer goods with 31 supermarket chains. Some of the companies that signed the agreement are Día, Carrefour, Coto, Chango Más, Makro, Vital, and Maxiconsumo, among others.
Companies that agree to the 5% monthly price cap will receive tax benefits to prevent cost increases from being passed on to prices. Those that increase their prices by more than 5% will be sanctioned and tax benefits will be withdrawn, according to a communiqué by Customs.
According to a statement, the United Supermarkets Association said that it will work to achieve price lists that respect this agreement. Since the devaluation, supermarkets and grocery stores told the Herald that they have not been receiving merchandise.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Trade Secretary Matías Tombolini said that the situation would be sorted out in the meetings that concluded on Friday.
In a press conference on Friday, Massa also announced a price freeze on medications agreed upon with national pharmaceutical companies and cooperatives that also make drugs, which will also last until October 31. The deal also implies tax exemptions for the companies, who will also have to “give up part of their earnings”, according to Massa.
“It’s a shared effort,” he said in a press conference. “Pharmaceuticals are real people, real businesspeople who decided to bet on price stability in such a sensitive issue as medicine,” he said.
In the conference, Massa said that the devaluation was “imposed” by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in light of the payment program it has with Argentina. Other government officials told the Herald that Javier Milei’s unexpected victory in the primaries also influenced the decision. Massa is expected to travel to Washington next week to meet with the Fund’s representatives, who have already met with Milei and Patricia Bullrich’s economic team, the frontrunners for the October 22 presidential elections.
Earlier this week, after the devaluation, eight consulting agencies projected the August inflation rate will be between 10% and 15% — if these forecasts prove to be right, it would be the highest monthly jump since the 1989-1990 hyperinflation.