It's All Down to Tomatoes in Argentina's Elections

In 1989-90 the country suffered from hyperinflation, with prices rising in one 12-month period by 6000 percent. In 2001-2002 Argentines lived through the worst sovereign debt default in history, with a depressed economy causing 60 percent of the population to live under the poverty line with 30 percent unemployment and a bank freeze making access to local bank accounts all but impossible for four months.

Argentines say they want a change, but the truth is they want and vote for stability, said Rosendo Fraga, a pollster and director of the Centro de Estudios Unión para la Nueva Mayoría (Study Center for the New Majority), in a press conference attended by ABC News.

And for the past few years, stability has been achieved with average annual growth of 8.5 percent, balanced budgets, a debt decease from 175 billion USD to 120, unemployment cut to one-third of what it was when Nestor Kirchner took over and those living under the poverty line descending to 23 percent.

"However, our polls showed Kirchner had more than 60 percent support in March and that has gradually been slipping," said Fraga.

When asked if inflation was a factor, Fraga pointed to inflation as the best example of instability. And therein lies the tomato.

"Tomato prices can be attributed to three factors," explained Mariano Winograd, director of Cinco al Dia (Five a Day), a nongovernmental organization which attempts to convince Argentina's carnivorous citizens to eat five portions of fruits and/or vegetables per day.

"There are structural, seasonal and production problems that have contributed to a relative scarcity of tomatoes on the market," Winograd told ABC News.

"Relative because this is a short-term major problem that is already working itself out. Structural as in all of Latin America where marked growth has made for a sudden surge in demand for fruits and vegetables. Seasonal because our (southern) winter was the third coldest on record, only 1816 and 1918 being colder. Production being that more and more land is being utilized for grains, oilseeds and biofuel commodities (canola, zatrofa, corn, sugar, etc.), replacing land that had produced fruits and vegetables."

Winograd and other market observers believe tomato prices will not drop back to 50 cents (USD) per pound any time soon, if ever. However the price should slowly descend as the warm weather buoys the spring harvest.

Just what the de Kirchner campaign wants to hear. If tomato prices do actually descend, her victory in the first round of the election seems assured.

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