Argentina had one of Latin America's most prosperous economies in the late 20th century, traditionally based on agricultural exports. Sustained economic growth, however, has been hindered by social and political unrest, a large foreign debt, periodic recessions, and inflation.
Nationalization of many industries occurred during the mid 20th century. During the late 20th century, however, many state-owned industries, including the national airline and the national oil company, were privatized.
which provides about 70 per cent of Argentina's exports, is vital to the economy. The Pampas, with fertile soils, moderate climate, and great estancias, or estates, are the center of Argentine farming. Raising livestock, particularly beef cattle and sheep, is especially important. Though cattle and sheep are widely distributed, they are most numerous on the Pampas. Attending the cattle herds are gauchos, or cowboys.
Cereals and oilseed crops (crops grown for their oil) make up much of Argentina's crop production. Leading cereals include wheat, corn, oats, and barley. Soybeans and sunflowers are the chief oilseed crops. Much of Argentina's production of cereals and oilseed crops comes from the Pampas.
From Mesopotamia come such subtropical products as rice, tobacco, citrus fruit, and mate (used as a tea). The Chaco is unsuited to most kinds of farming, but is the center of cotton production.
In irrigated valleys of the northwest, around San Miguel de Tucuman and Salta, sugarcane is the principal crop. Similar valleys in the west, near Mendoza and San Juan, have notable vineyards and orchards. Few crops are grown in Patagonia; the farm economy there is based almost entirely on sheep production.. Other products that Argentina produces include apples, grapes, milk, potatoes, poultry meat, sorghum, and tea.
Farms in Argentina are extremely varied in size, and include huge estates stretching across the Pampas, as well as small plots owned by families and used for subsistence farming. The former farms use technologically advanced machinery, whereas the latter make use of horse-drawn equipment. The number of small farms, however, has dwindled since the mid 20th century, especially in the Pampas.
Argentina ranks with Brazil and Mexico as one of the three most important manufacturing countries in Latin America. Greater Buenos Aires, which lies along the Paran River, between Buenos Aires and Rosario, is the principal industrial area. Also important are Cordoba, Santa Fe, Mendoza, and Rosario.
Industries that depend on agricultural raw materials are Argentina's oldest and most developed. Food processing leads all other groups, in both value of output and number of workers. Two of the chief activities are meat packing and the milling of grain. All major Argentine cities have sizable food-processing industries.
Argentina produces a wide range of consumer and light industrial goods. Among them are electrical appliances, automobiles, chemicals, plastics, pharmaceuticals, printed materials, textiles, clothing, and shoes. Heavy industries, though expanding, are the least developed. They include petroleum refining, metallurgy, and the manufacturing of machinery, and heavy transportation equipment, such as railway cars.
Only in petroleum does Argentina come close to meeting its major mineral needs. The nation's oil wells have developed most rapidly since the mid 20th century, chiefly through the joint efforts of the Argentine government and foreign petroleum companies. The chief oil fields are at Comodoro Rivadavia and Neuquen, in Patagonia; at Mendoza and Tupungato, in the west; at Campo Duran, in the northwest; and on Tierra del Fuego and in nearby waters. Natural gas is an important secondary product of the oil fields. Also of significance is the mining of copper, gold, silver, boron compounds, lead, zinc, iron ore, coal, tin, and uranium, which are largely deposited in the Andes Mountains and around the Piedmont.
Except for remote forests of the southern Andes, Argentina's timber resources are largely confined to the northeast. Few of the trees, however, are commercially used. From scrubby forests of the Chaco comes the most valuable tree, the red quebracho, the source of tannin used in processing leather.
The Argentines have never fully exploited the rich fishing banks off their coast, particularly the cold waters of the far south, and the continental shelf. Three-fourths of the major catch is exported by the fishing crews, mostly to the European countries, as well as Brazil, Colombia, and the United States. The catch consists chiefly of hake, sardines, and sea bass. Mar del Plata is the leading fishing and fish-processing center. Commercial fishing in Argentina, however, has decreased since the late 20th century due to laws against overfishing.
Service industries account for about half of Argentinas GDP, and includes such services as the government services, financial and insurance services, retail trade, tourism, and transportation. Retail trade began to expand rapidly in the late 20th century, and the early 21st century saw international tourism gain importance.
Electric power and utilities. Plants that burn natural gas provide more than half of Argentinas electric power, with hydroelectric plants supplying most of the rest. Nuclear power plants supply a very small amount of the electric power required by Argentines. In the late 20th century, the government turned over many public utilities to private owners.
Air routes, highways, and railways extend from Buenos Aires, and connect it with most cities and towns of Argentina. Argentina's chief means of transportation is its road network, which carries roughly half of the country's freight. Four branches of the Pan-American Highway link Buenos Aires with Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Argentine railways are the largest in South America, though it is mostly out of date and incompetent. The railways are mainly in the Pampas.
The Rio de la Plata and its tributaries, particularly the Parana, make up a system of navigable waterways nearly 2,000 miles (3,200 km) long. Buenos Aires is by far the leading port, for both domestic and overseas shipping. Ezeiza Airport, 30 miles (48 km) from Buenos Aires, is one of the largest air terminals in South America. It serves Argentina's Aerolineas Argentinas and many other international carriers. Most other busy airports in Argentina are based in Buenos Aires.
Argentina has over 40 radio stations, mostly private ownerships, as well as hundreds of radio stations, including private, national, provincial, municipal, and university stations. The Argentines can also access cable and satellite television services. The use of cellular telephones and the Internet has grown considerably since the late 20th century. Internet cafes are widely available in major cities. Over 150 newspapers are published in Argentina. Clarin and La Nacin, are the largest circulated dailies published in Buenos Aires.
Agricultural products—especially wheat, corn, and other cereals and meat, wool, and hides—are Argentina's main exports. Other major exports include cooking oil, petroleum and natural gas, and processed foods. Imports include machinery and mechanical equipment, vehicles, coal, chemicals, lumber, metals and metal products, plastics, and transportation equipment. Argentina's principal trading partners are Brazil, Chile, China, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Russia, and the United States. Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay buy about one-third of Argentinas exports. In 1991, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay created a trade association known as Mercosur (Southern Common Market), which later admitted other South American countries.
Argentina's basic currency unit is the Argentine peso.