Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 20

     Gail came to Argentina with some preconceptions. She knew that Argentina is currently one of the best travel bargains in the world because the dollar hasn't declined against the Argentinian peso. She expected to see lots of fruit trees and to taste good wine in Mendoza. But what Gail has not seen yet is a herd of cattle.  Maybe most Argentineans don't know what a cow looks like? Half of all Argentineans live in the city of Buenos Aires, with the rest of them living in Mendoza or elsewhere. But Gail is learning an important lesson in geography. Most of the cows live in the Pampas, a vast and sparsly inhabited region east of the capital.  We have seen plenty of beef served on a plate. Per capita beef consumption in Argentina is the highest in the world - and nearly double that of the U.S. The men we meet say they eat meat every day. But one wonders if these people have ever met a cow? I guess she expected them to be everywhere. They are everywhere, in pieces on a plate.                                                                       

     The street scenes in the city are fascinating. Today we stopped to watch more tango dancers, window shopped and shared a delicious fruit infused gelatti. Dale got his shoes shined near our hotel and they look great!  People hang out in the numerous cafes that appear on every other corner of the city in the various neighborhoods. We see locals who sit with a $2 coffee in hand somehow resting in the middle of this often traffic-clogged, horn-honking, passionate city. The café culture is strong which is yet another reason this city reminds us of Paris.

     Today the newspaper had three articles that were of interest:  1.  Major hail storm hits Mendoza last night, over 1200 Hectares of fruit and vines severely damaged.  2.  A labor strike hits all the Bartlett pear growing regions of Rio Negro and Neuquen.  For the past seven days no one would pick, the roads were blocked to prevent any pears from reaching packing houses. This is the reason we could not go to Neuquen, we might have seen stuck in a road block by angry pickers ten hours away from an airport.  Twenty percent of the pear crop will not make it to market as it is overripe on the trees. 3.  An Irish investment group has purchased 2500 hectares of farmland as it is a bargain compared to land in Ireland.

     We had lunch and a business meeting with Andres Panizza of Mono Azul, the fourth largest fruit packer in Argentina, and Chimo Alama, from Valencia, Spain a fruit salesman from Saborjuice.  They are planning their sales of pears and apples to the European market and agreed to give us a briefing.  It was invaluable.  These are smart, sophisticated fruit salesmen and Dale took a lot of notes for future use. One of the interesting facts is that five companies in Argentina control 80% of the fruit.  Can anyone spell "oligopoly?"  Yet the workers go on strike every year the day before harvest of Bartlett pears begins.  The employers had to promise a big payraise, from $20 per day to $22 per day.  Still sounds like a bargain to me.  Meanwhile we had a beautiful lunch at a Spanish restaurant selected by Chimo.  He comes here regularly on fruit buying trips and since he is from Spain he wanted us to taste some really great Spanish dishes:  Scallops in Parmesan cheese sauce, calamari, trout in capers and sole with clam sauce.

     Tomorrow we take the boat to Montevideo, Uruguay for our third country in three weeks.    







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