Challenges Mount for Argentine Importers Amidst Currency Access Hurdles

While the bottleneck in obtaining import authorizations via SIRA (the Import Monitoring System) seems to be gradually easing, entrepreneurs in the sector are voicing a new concern: the scarcity of access to foreign currency. Even when they receive the green light for their operations, the much-needed dollars remain elusive.

An importer, grappling with the system’s complexities for weeks, explained, “Today, the problem isn’t so much about getting SIRA approvals; the real issue is the delayed delivery of the dollars.” This delay in accessing foreign currency has become a significant headache for many businesses in the import sector.

Importers are pinpointing August as the turning point when the foreign currency shortage began hitting the Central Bank’s reserves the hardest. Despite having their SIRA approvals in place, they encounter difficulties such as the disappearance or postponement of payment dates, often stretching from 60 to 90 days.

Adding to their woes are “computer inconsistencies” that surface at the payment stage, halting payments that had already been committed for more than 180 days. Even companies that had meticulously organized their paperwork now find themselves facing these discrepancies.

Fernando García Martínez, a specialist in Foreign Trade at the Argentine Chamber of Commerce (CAC), remarked, “The majority of our clients have their SIRA approvals secured. What we are observing today are significant payment problems, with clients unable to access the foreign exchange market on the agreed-upon dates. Suddenly, account inconsistencies emerge, acting as the final hurdle before payments can be processed. There are also abrupt changes in the designated access dates, with benefits seemingly postponed from one day to the next.”

Importers do acknowledge the government’s efforts to expedite SIRA approvals in recent weeks, but they attribute this to the emerging economic downturn. They contend that fewer SIRAs are being requested as a consequence of the beginning recession. Furthermore, the SIRA process is encountering issues right from the start. One crucial step involves importers providing company information for government assessment to ascertain their financial capacity for the intended operations, often determined by an algorithm.

“We’re facing numerous challenges with the evaluation of financial capacity. Companies that meet the requirements may find that, according to the system, their capacity is equivalent to just one peso,” García Martínez disclosed. This disparity is expected to create complications with credit organizations financing exports in the countries of origin and other entities supporting foreign suppliers selling to Argentina, warns an executive from an importing firm.

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