The economy of Argentina still has its main foundation on agriculture and cattle breeding.
The cultivated area is occupied by the traditional cultivation of cereals for about half; and we still find wheat in the first place, which in 1957-58 was cultivated on 5,307,600 ha and gave a production of 53,000,000 q; but there is a contraction in this crop with respect to previous years (5,947,100 ha. and 71,000,000 of q. in 1956-57; over 6 million ha. in the years still preceding); almost half of the product is exported, so the Argentina ranks fourth in world exports. The cultivation of rice, on the other hand, is increasing considerably, which currently occupies an area of 62,300 ha (against 49,300 ha in 1946 and 55,400 ha in 1956) with a production that reached, in 1957-58, 1,926,000 quintals.
The cultivation of the vine occupies an area of 223,000 ha and in the three-year period 1955-57 gave an average annual production of 12,790,000 q of grapes, mostly from wine. Fruit growing is becoming more and more widespread in the same regions where vines are grown, whose products, both dried and fresh, are now exported, as well as to neighboring Brazil, to the USA and also to European countries.
Argentina today is in third place, after the USA and the USSR, in the world production of flax, which is grown on 1,444,200 ha, with a production of 6,050,000 q of seed (1957), which is exported at the rate of over 70% of the total produced. The sunflower is grown on 1,671,000 ha, with a production of 8,100,000 q. Among the other industrial plants, cotton (626,000 ha, 2,055,000 q of seeds and 1,050,000 q of fiber, in 1956-57) and tobacco and sugar cane are worthy of mention. Finally, mate is grown on 65,000 ha.
Farming still retains great importance: the Argentine livestock herd in 1955-56 consisted of 45,396,000 head of cattle (in this field, however, there is a decline, having reduced, according to an estimate of 1958, to 41,000,000, while remaining the main item of Argentine exports and still retaining the first place in the world), from 43,867,000 sheep, also down compared to previous years, and from 5,400,000 horses. On the other hand, pigs are on the increase: 3,858,000 in 1955-56 and 4,011,000 according to the 1958 estimate.
Fishing is still scarcely practiced; the vessels suitable for deep sea fishing amount to about 30 for a total of 6000 tonnes; for coastal fishing there are 400 smaller units; in 1956, 66,316 t of fish were landed. Whaling yields an average of 650 catches per year, with a production of 5,220 t of oil.
Subsoil resources are still scarce; the production of coal, although increasing, is still scarce while that of oil has reached values that place the Argentina in third place among the countries of South America.
The exploitation of Argentine oil resources, although hampered and delayed by political vicissitudes, had a constant increase in the decade 1949-59. At the end of 1959 four fields were in full production, each consisting of different fields: Comodoro Rivadavia (with the new field of Flanco Sur and the fields of Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego), Mendoza, Salta, Plaza Huincul (with the recent fields of Río Negro and del Neuquén). On November 10, 1958, the law of nationalization of oil was sanctioned, the exploitation of which is entrusted to the state body YPF (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales) both directly and through contracts with other organizations in the branch. On the basis of these contracts (which gave rise to bitter polemics between political parties) they currently collaborate with
A new large pipeline has been added to the transport system for oil and derivatives: it connects the Campo Durán in the province of Salta with the refinery of San Lorenzo in the province of Santa Fe; it is 1483 km long with a 323 mm diameter pipeline. Along the way are nine pumping stations of 2000 hp each and the transport capacity is 9200 m 3 per day under a maximum pressure of 70 kg / cm 2. It will be subsidized by eight storage parks for a total of 272,000 m 3.
Crude oil is processed in various refineries, of which the main ones, owned by the YPF, are located in La Plata, Dock Sud (Gran Buenos Aires), San Lorenzo, Luján de Cuyo, Chachapoya (Salta), Plaza Huincul (Neuquén) and Campo Durán. Their total processing capacity, of about 7 million m 3 per year, has, since February 1960, been totally satisfied by national oil, the production of which, in the decade, appears from the following table:
According to Indexdotcom, natural gas continues to be one of the major resources of the Argentine subsoil and its use has been developed considerably. The important field in the glauconite sands of Comodoro Rivadavia was joined to Buenos Aires with a 1700 km gas pipeline inaugurated in 1951, with the addition of another pipeline coming from the fields of Plaza Huincul. The steel pipe has diameters between 25 and 30 cm, and when all seven intermediate recompression stations are assembled it will be able to convey 1 million m 3 per day of gas. Another large gas pipeline was inaugurated in February 1960 and connects the salt fields of Campo Durán with Buenos Aires. It has a 600 mm piping and will be able to convey a maximum flow rate of 7 million m 3per day. Already most of the users of the Federal Capital and of the Greater Buenos Aires, and all those of the smaller cities along the pipelines, are fed with natural gas, and the very large quantity of surplus will be used in the metallurgical and chemical industries. Also in the extreme south of the republic, in Puerto Deseado, gas fields have been found that will be used as thermal energy to produce electricity for the electrometallurgical industry (aluminum, ferroalloys).
The research and exploitation of Argentine deposits of hard coal was the responsibility of the Solid Fuels Division of the Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) organization until 6 August 1958, when a new state enterprise was created with the name of “Yacimientos Carboníferos Fiscales” (initials YCF) which since then undertook a systematic prospecting campaign and assumed the management of the fields being exploited. Coal outcrops have been identified in Meseta Deseada and Lago Viedma (Santa Cruz), Lepá (Chubut), Río Grande and San Carlos (Mendoza), Río Jáchal (San Juan), Tambillo (La Rioja), Chascuil (Catamarca), San Javier (Misiones), but the richest coal basin and the only one currently under intense exploitation, is that of Río Turbio, located at southwestern extremity of the province of Santa Cruz, high basin of the Río Gallegos. Between 1949 and 1954 only 358,000 tons of coal were extracted, but after the creation of the YCF the works were intensified and from 1955 to 1959 more than 1 million tons were obtained, with a forecast of 500,000 tons in 1960. Río Turbio are 410 million tons.
In a relatively recent period, the exploitation of water reserves began in Argentina among other things, a sea-water power plant is being studied in the Valdés peninsula (Atlantic coast about 1000 km SW of Buenos Aires). In addition, in 1958 the thermal power plant of San Nicolás (province of Buenos Aires) entered service to meet the needs of the capital above all. Electricity production exceeded 5 billion kWh in 1950.
The industrialization of the country is underway: in addition to the traditional industries of processing and refrigeration of meat, dairy products and food, the chemical-pharmaceutical industries, the cement one, the brewing industry, etc. are being boosted. The steel industry is being provided with a plan which provides for the exploitation of the iron deposits of Sierras Grandes. The textile industry has always been based on the processing of wool, even if in decline, with 220,000 spindles, 5000 looms and about 60 combing machines in operation in 1956, and on the processing of cotton (675,000 spindles and 172,286 looms, now, almost entirely, automatic, always in the same year). In recent years, a cellulose workshop (average production of 50 t per day) has been installed in Puerto Piray (Misiones).