There are a few times on this trip that we stay in a place for more than a night and this is one of them. Pergamino is located about 3 hours northwest of Buenos Aires, in the Pampas region, the major agricultural belt. Today we drove about 2 hours further to Rosario, a city of 3 million people, the 3rd largest one in Argentina. We spent the morning hearing about APPEGIO, a no-till organization of farmers, and visiting the Rosario Board of Trade, the exchange where grains and oilseeds are traded. Both offices were in a lovely old building that reminded me of the legislature, built in 1929. The chandeliers, columns, plaster sculptures and flooring were very elegant and there were several very nice antique pieces of furniture around the museum area. The exchange itself has moved next door to a new building and we had a chance to look through the glass doors before trading started for the afternoon. The guys checked the agricultural commodity prices in Chicago and Kansas City.
This afternoon we cruised upriver to see the largest collection of grain and crushing facilities in the world. There was site after site of huge metal grain bins, oil (from soya beans and canola) storage tanks, and meal (the by-product of the crushing process) where ocean vessels come in to be loaded. We counted nearly 20 ships loading or waiting to come in to port. After seeing the size of these places and the boats we definitely have a better picture of the major part that agriculture plays in Argentina´s economy.
Some random facts from today that really struck me:
- the world has about 90 million hectares of very good arable land
- 47 million hectares of that land are in Latin America
- Argentina alone has 20 million acres of that land
- 36% of Argentina´s population makes a living from agricultural related industries
- 56% of the country´s income coming into the country is from agricultural products
- the export of cattle has been suspended in order to keep the domestic prices down
- 220 kg beef calves are selling for $1.00(US) per kilo - that equals $220 per calf (a very low price)
In other news (!), Bob wasn´t feeling too well today but he came along with us and survived the day. There have been a number of people in our group dealing with stomach issues in the last few days but a day of rest and some prescription drugs have helped each of them recover. Keep your fingers crossed that I don´t succumb!
One of the things that I´ve loved most about traveling in other countries are the small local markets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. There´s one of these right across from our hotel and we´ve tried the peaches, plums, pears, and oranges - all of them were delicious. Then right next door to the fresh market is a lovely bakery with fresh pastries and shortbread cookies. You take a little basket, use tongs to pick up your choices and take them to the till where they are bagged and you pay for them. We are having some very good snacks down here :))
Tonight for supper we had burgers at an outdoor patio and visited a bit with the owner´s 10 year old daughter. She´s in grade 5 and studies English, which she speaks very well. I told her to tell her teacher tomorrow that she speaks excellent English. I´m sure the Canada pin we gave her is going to school tomorrow! And by the way, classes here are held at 3 different times - 8 - 11:30 a.m., 1 - 5:30 p.m., or 7 - 11 p.m.. I haven´t figured out how it´s decided who goes at what time or the hours that teachers work. I do know that some of them work at 2 or 3 different schools. Very interesting system to get maximum usage of buildings and manpower.
Tomorrow we leave this area and travel further inland about 2 hours, stopping to visit a dairy farm and a hog operation. We´ve seen lots of crop production so it will be good to see livestock now. On Saturday we are going to AgroExpo, the largest machinery show in the country. I´m sure there will be lots of great big equipment in those pictures. Our tour guide assured us that there will also be pots and pans, cleaning products, farm clothing and some things to interest women :))
We´ve been away from home for 2 weeks now - and in some ways it seems like alot longer! We have seen so much and been on the go all the time. And it´s been incredible - every single bit of it! Time to repack the suitcases and rest for the next adventure. Adios!