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Group calls for beef boycott in Argentina

  • Beef prices have increased 40 to 50 percent since December, consumer group says
  • Argentina has highest per capita beef consumption in world, farm federation says
  • Similar boycott of tomatoes led to price drop in Argentina, consumer group says

(CNN) -- A consumer group called for Argentineans, world leaders in beef consumption, to boycott the meat for a week in an effort to lower prices, news reports said.

The price of beef has increased 40 percent to 50 percent since December, said the Association of Free Consumers, which called for the boycott to begin Monday.

The consumer group cited success in a recent boycott of tomatoes, which had risen in price, the Argentinean government-run Telam news agency and other outlets reported. Within days of the tomato boycott, prices dropped, the group said.

Argentina -- a nation of nearly 41 million residents and 51 million cattle in 2007 -- has faced a crisis as cattle supplies have dipped to their lowest levels in 45 years, according to the Argentina Farm Federation.

The Association of Free Consumers cites three possible reasons for the decline in cattle stock: a significant increase in the number of slaughtered livestock; an acceleration in the cultivation of soy, with more than 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) converted from livestock to soy production; and more Argentineans buying beef.

Drought also has decreased the size of available pasture land.

Argentineans are the world's champs at beef consumption -- eating 68 kilograms (150 lbs.) per person per year, the Farm Federation said. Despite the high consumption, that's a significant decrease from the 80 kilograms (176 lbs.) per person per year in the 1970s, the farm group said.

Argentinean beef is considered among the best in the world, and the nation is the third-largest exporter in the world, behind Brazil and Australia. But the drastic decline in beef cattle has led some Argentineans to worry that the nation could eventually have to import beef to keep up with the high demand.