If you are like most Argentines, you are probably reading this article while enjoying mate. This time-honored infusion could come at the cost of fair wages for Argentina growers and producers, primarily from the northern Misiones province. Grower groups from the province are headed to Plaza de Mayo today to protest by distributing 30,000 kilos of yerba mate, in hopes of informing buyers and legislators about their situation.
Why is the mate free? Growers are upset because the market is paying less per kilo than was originally promised. Whole, unprocessed mate should earn growers AR $5.10 and milled mate should earn AR $19.20 a kilo, in accordance with regulation established last September by The National Institute of Yerba Mate (INYM). Instead, wholesale buyers are paying a mere AR $2.10 – AR $3.80 per kilo. By distributing free mate, the growers are hoping to drive home the message that their current earnings are basically non-existent.
Perhaps now you have set your mate down, or maybe you are sipping with shocked fervor. Last time you checked, you paid AR $60 for the bigger pack of yerba at the store. Where are your hard earned pesos going if not to growers?
According to Ariel Steffen, a grower’s group member, the national protest hopes to “present [itself] in Congress and the Obelisco so they see us, hear us, listen to us and that the authorities find a solution… We only ask a fair price and payment.”
In addition to the protest, growers and processors will continue to block road access across Routes 12 and 14, affecting access to Jardín América and San Pedro sporadically until a solution is achieved.
Given the peaceful means of the protest, which some are terming Yerbatazo, and mate’s integral role in Argentine daily life, grower groups will likely find support nationwide from mate enthusiasts.