Argentina, the biggest beef- consuming nation, may resort to imports for the first time within two years as a drought kills cattle and export controls prompt ranchers to quit the business.

Pastures have dried up and forage prices gained so much that farmers are allowing livestock to die in the fields, said Arturo Llavallol, a director of Buenos Aires-based farm group The Rural Society. Ranchers are killing higher than usual numbers of breeding stock, compromising future output, he said.

The nation’s herd has dwindled 7 percent since 2006, when the government restricted beef exports to boost supplies in the local market, Llavallol said in a telephone interview from his farm in Saavedra, southwest Buenos Aires province. The country may need imports within a couple of years, he said.

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