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There Is A Tampon Shortage Plaguing the Women of Argentina

Currency and import restrictions by the government have resulted in a scarcity of tampons since December in Argentina. 'As summer nears, the lack of tampons is a problem. You can’t go to the beach or get into the water,' one woman said.
Photo par Gaston Cavanagh

After visiting six supermarkets and pharmacies to find some tampons, 27-year-old Catalina Moclov, a resident of Buenos Aires, just gave up.

"It has been almost three months since we could find tampons," Moclov said on a recent day here. "Nothing like this has ever happened before. Now that one of my friends is traveling outside the country, I asked her to bring me several boxes."

"I am using pads, which are more uncomfortable and unhygienic," she added.


Women in Argentina have been awkwardly reminded of the precarious economic issues the country has faced in the last year, as tampons began disappearing from supermarket and pharmacy shelves in mid-December — right as summer kicked off in the southern hemisphere.

While business leaders and government officials trip over each other to point fingers over the shortage, the tampon issue has illuminated an uncomfortable truth: Argentina exhausted the patience of foreign creditors in 2014, and in turn, foreign currency is in short supply, squeezing on the flow of imports of certain goods.

The shortages are far from the extreme scenarios seen in Venezuela or Cuba, observers said, but the tampon scarcity is reminding Argentines that their country's latest financial woes are far from resolved.

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Most of the tampons sold in Argentina are imported from Brazil, and everything that enters the country must first be reviewed and authorized by the Argentine government. But the country's lack of foreign currency has been causing severe import delays on some products since the middle of last year.

Import officials accuse large companies of stirring up the shortage in order to drive up prices, and businesses are responding by blaming the government for over-regulating imports at a time when inflation grows by about 40 percent annually, Reuters reported.


Miguel Ponce, a spokesman for the Chamber of Importers, said that the shortage was caused by a currency restriction that was in place between December and January.

"This caused many imported products to go un-stocked," Ponce told VICE News.

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Johnson & Johnson told The Wall Street Journal they were "experiencing some difficulties in satisfying high seasonal demand for OB tampons because of delays in the import process at the end of 2014." However, Kimberly Clark, the company behind tampon maker Kotex, claimed the scarcity is due to problems with distribution.

Local pharmacy attendants and supermarkets have no idea when the tampons will be returning. But stores are beginning to pack the shelves with menstrual pads and pantyliners.

'There aren't any tampons anywhere. It's impossible to find any brand.'

Argentina's commerce secretary, Augusto Costas, said during a radio broadcast that the real cause of the shortage is an increase in demand that occurred in December, which made the companies "unable to supply this highly sensitive personal hygiene product."

"There was a sort of run on tampons, fueled by media operations," Costas said, echoing the common government strategy of blaming such a crisis on the news media and on big business.

"We got in touch with the companies. The three firms that provide the product said that they had definite logistical issues, which made it impossible for them to respond to the demand," Costa said, adding that the companies "promised to solve the problem soon."


Some women are asking friends who plan to leave the country soon to bring a few boxes of tampons back when they return. Others are opting to purchase them online, at a much higher cost than tampons usually go for.

"As summer nears, the lack of tampons is a problem. You can't go to the beach or get into the water," said Maria Genaro, 29. "There aren't any tampons anywhere. It's impossible to find any brand. The few places that do still have boxes have them at a much higher price, due to the shortage."

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En Argenzuela, góndola de tampones antes y después de q pase la langosta de mi bombón. Invierte en tampones la chica — Jose Luis Espert (@jlespert)January 17, 2015

Clarissa Perullini, one of the founders of Maggacup, the only Argentine company that produces menstrual cups, said that their sales have gone up these past months, as women search for alternatives during the tampon shortage.

"Sales made through our online store have increased by 1,000 percent," Perullini said. "We have been getting a lot of interest from women who want to join the network of Maggacup representatives — women who promote and sell the cup."

The president of the Argentine Chamber of Importers, Diego Perez Santisteban, expressed frustration at the shortage.

"I don't know what it's like in Cuba or North Korea, but except for Venezuela, there is no other country in the world that controls its imports one hundred percent, as Argentina does," Perez said.

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Follow Gaston Cavanagh on Twitter @GastonCavanagh.