In search of an explanation for Argentina’s recent tampon crisis, Domestic Trade Secretary Augusto Costa has come up with an answer that is so genius and so absurd that only an economist could have thought it up.

“It’s like when you say a bank’s going badly, everyone goes to get money and they melt,” explained the Trade Secretary to Radio de la Plata. Much like a bank run, the shortages in the country are apparently result of “a kind of tampon run, induced by a media operation.”

Obviously, this is all down to another attempt from the press to “delegitimize the administrative system of domestic trade which is managed by the Government.” But Costa is also pointing the finger at local importers, echoing the Economy Ministry’s earlier stance that companies failed to understand the normal procedures needed to bring in those all-important tampons.

"You'll laugh"
“You’ll laugh”

Having talked to three distinct firms, Costa deduced, a little vaguely, that the catastrophe was down to “specific problems, logistics” which meant that that companies were unable to provide for the increased demand, and fully assured us that it “didn’t have to do with the import limit.” The Government’s tight policies on imports have come under fire from supermarkets, pharmacies and the media alike in light of the recent disaster. It doesn’t help that there is an grand total of zero tampon manufacturers in Argentina, and that the majority are therefore shipped in from Brazil and Colombia.

But Costa’s reasoning begs the question: Why now? Seasonal tampon demand is nothing new; it increases every summer and companies know this, and capitalize from it.

Miguel Ponce, General Director of the Chamber of Importers, offers us another angle: “Until the 5th of December, not one form was approved. We know that there was a delay not only in admitting them, but also in allowing the companies access to the exchange market. The tampon shortage began in the last several months, but is becoming sharper now with the greater demand.”

This account is supported by supermarkets and local providers who claim not to have received new stock for months. So what’s behind all of this? A shady media strategy? A “marketeering” scam? A massive bureaucratic fuck-up? Or is the patriarchy just trying to piss off women for a couple months?

I like Costa’s answer best: “You’ll laugh [you really will], but I recently spoke with a colleague here in the Domestic Trade Secretariat who told me that at the start of December she went and bought three boxes of 800 tampons.”

So that’s where they all went!

“Panic tampon buying” seems to have had wider repercussions across the region. Uruguayan beach resorts are also facing crises as Argentine tourists stock up in local pharmacies. Meanwhile, Claudio Guerschuny, a Buenos Aires pharmacist, has announced that there is now also a shortage of adult diapers and children’s swim diapers. Hard times call for desperate measures.

A week ago the Economy Ministry promised to have stocks “normalized” within the fortnight, and according to Costa, the Secretariat is “analyzing why what happened happened, because it is very serious.”

You don’t say.