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Argentina's Yerba Mate

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Argentina's Yerba Mate

Since the first half of last century, Argentina was the largest producer and processor of the infusion, in addition to being the first world consumer of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis St. Hilaire). The last decade witnessed a significant expansion of new plantations, coupled with genetic selection in a larger number of seedlings in production. The industry followed the process by launching new business presentations. This growth, with simultaneous improvements in productivity of the mate to a lesser extent Brazil and Paraguay, currently affected by climatic factors, was essential to reach 450 thousand tons of production for the market for tea. The challenge is to resolve the collapse of these volumes, which are reduced by inclement weather, which could affect the normal development of the food chain of the more consumed infusion of the Southern Cone.

History of the yerba mate

The origin of consumption of yerba mate is lost in time. It was part of the basic food of the Guarani that called it "caa-mate" ( "CAA" means a plant or herb, and "mate" derive from the quechua "matí: drinking), and it was through it came from the Spanish conquerors. Later, the Jesuits introduced the crop in their "mission" through rudimentary techniques of germination. Its use was extended so that there was a heavy traffic, but with its removal, to 1769, lost the techniques for the development. More than one hundred years passed, until Frederick Neumann in Paraguay, managed to obtain seed germination. In the first three years of the twentieth century in the town of San Ignacio, Misiones, the first plantings were of importance. A few years after the crop began to expand to cover the area that is currently in production.

Production of yerba mate

Argentina produces more than 60% of the world mate, with Brazil in second place, and the third with a very heterogeneous mate, Paraguay.

In our country, the only region where the plant can develop, covers the whole province of Misiones and northern Corrientes (departments of Sao Tome e Ituzaingó).

This basin collects unique ecological characteristics that enable it to reach a potential production of over 900,000 tons of yerba mate leaves annually. This volume is the amount equivalent to 300,000 tons of yerba mate processing industrial canal.

The surface implanted, according to the latest satellite survey, is of 194,000 hectares, distributed among 18,000 independent producers, with premises in which 96% have planted an area equal to or less than 30 hectares.

Harvest is done in mostly by hand, using labor-intensive and requires a degree of specialization. Importantly, the tasks of collecting deal, estimates, around 22,000 harvesters to which is added the indirect employment generated and give mobility to 260 mills and 140 dryers for yerba mate. Respect of the cultivated area in a mechanical way, are made in new sites that have provided a higher density per hectare in selected seedlings, whose high level of technical development and production to obtain a quality product distinguished.

Since the end of the 80s, primary production increased steadily and progressively in the Misiones province, regardless of the economic sustainability of this process.

From then until today, plantations grew by 16%, alternating with mate from the mid-'20, which results in yielding disparate economic units, as determined by reading the satellite in the years 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001.

A different evolution experienced the province of Corrientes, to renew a large part of fulfilling its mate for another production cycle of higher quality, in response to demand for quality differentiated products.

Productive characteristics of yerba mate

The primary sector experienced the greatest economic impact as a result of the depressed value of the leaf yerba mate generated by the excess production in relation to the needs of the milling industry.

Recorded in the period, there were three distinct segments of the density surfaces in place, without so far seen action to change this situation.

Producers with a density of 1,000 to 1,800 plants per hectare or more, have difficulties in the current economic climate.

The classification of mate depends on the density of plants per hectare, showed that 47.84% is the high density, medium density is 25.27% and the rest can be categorized as low density. Besides the latter are in degraded soils and affected by at least 80 years of uninterrupted operation.

The current status of the primary sector is characterized by a first production, was affected by a significant oversupply and circumstantially today finds the balance point, coupled with the existence of a significant stratum of producers that do not reach acceptable levels of productivity by adverse climatic factors (drought and tornadoes). Note that the average rainfall for the region is 1,871 mm annually, and in 2004 it rained 1.264mm, i.e. the missing reached 606 mm, which resulted in a significant deterioration in the plantations.

The region is unique and necessary for productive activity, but requires that the comparative advantages offered by natural resources, have dynamic comparative advantages, for example through the encouragement of technological innovation (both in appearance productive as in the commercial) and the launching of a vigorous marketing strategy.

Industrial process of yerba mate

The drying of yerba mate leaves, which used procedures that date back to the pre-Columbian era, along with machinery of current technology, is the first step of the manufacturing process.

This phase involves the arrest of the biological processes of degradation of plant tissues, and at the same time, an almost total dehydration of the thus achieving the primary processing of yerba mate leaf.

In most cases, the transmitting agent of the heat of the flue gas from wood native and cultivated hills is used.

Differentiation techniques and operational variations are between establishments that are factors of singular importance for achieving a differential with a blend and style that identifies itself.

The sequence of the production process involves four steps or operations:

Cutting: Freshly cut green leaves are subjected to the direct action of a flame for a few seconds generated by a sharp temperature rise in the plant material. This heat treatment, very violent, causes, among other things, the enzyme inactivation, by stopping down the biological processes. The procedure results in a significant decrease of water content.

Pre-drying: It is performed before and after cutting, by machine itself in some establishments. It is a heat treatment and light roasting, which reduces the moisture content and is done in an interim facility.

Drying: Material is subjected for several hours to the action of heat, dehydration required to achieve, leaving a residual moisture content of about 2-4%. This is one of the biggest differences that presents an industrial establishment to another.

Crushing and classifying: The material is crushed or ground rudely, and then sorted, removing excess wood fiber. The product is called "yerba mate stadium without parking," "green grass pitch" or just "grass court." Finally the product is bagged for parking in jute or polypropylene bags.

Depending on the type of product and drying, the final design will respond to the trace or items that are partly blended to achieve a given blend. Moreover, the drying time corresponds to a sort.

There are three types of drying:

  • Tape: average drying time (3 to 6 pm). 72% of the tea marketed to industry responds to this characteristic of production.
  • Barbacuá catre: long drying times, at least 12 hours. Represents 20% of sales to the mill.
  • Rotary evaporation: during short or rapid drying (15 min. 1 h). Represents 8%. The degree of preference and the characteristics that are achieved in the finished product, drying of the tape are used in the basin yerba mate. The amount of energy to produce a dryer with this configuration requires a significant amount of wood.

For example, get a ton of yerba mate stadium, requires burning a ton of wood, usually consisting of pine chips and / or hard mounted wood.

Bags of jute or polypropylene prepared to contain 50 kg of yerba mate stadium are stored in deposits from nine to fifteen months.

Another technique is to reduce the time that accelerate aging in the process chambers. These structures also allow detention mix items to build the desired product. The result of the proceeds is the raw material that goes to industry, which through successive operations, sorting, crushing and mixing, suits to the characteristics of each company, or the taste of consumers in different regions or countries importers.

Items selected go to the fragmentation and packing operations performed volumetric machines and packaging machines, which assemble and fill the containers and, by electronic monitoring of weight, closed systems with appropriate adhesives or heat sealing, printing date packaging and / or expiration date in addition to the lot number (current requirement according to Resolution No. 34/96 of the Argentine Food Code) and then apply the stamp tax prepared recently by the National Institute of Yerba Mate.

Once the items were put up in packages, boxes, cases or bales of different quantities, "packs" based on "pallets" parties to the various distribution channels.

Most important companies by sales volume in the domestic market and the position within the commercial brands, listed in this chart.

Internal Yerba mate marketing

Changes in the economic scenario from the year 2002 reduced sales of products with higher added value, especially with regard to the herbs and flavored compound.

Also saw a sharp deterioration in the payment chain, resulting in little trading practices that benefit in some way helped to mitigate the initiative of local industry, which are compounded by the absence of appropriations.

This joined unfair competition, carried out by operators who are in a marginal and informal segment.

In 2004, the perspective substantially changed, the most important reason was the balance between supply and demand. Sales in the domestic market totaled 240,000 tons surplus smoothly settled in the traditional countries. Undoubtedly, the prospect is in sight, urges redoubled efforts in the industrial sector. Faced with the reactivation of the companies first level again taken a leading role, but this time incorporating greater security techniques.

Another feature of the domestic market is the increase of own brands in supermarkets and hypermarkets, whose sales reached 3% of total sales. The industries that provide outsourcing services:

  • Sanes SA, maté processing industry for others, and provides packages of ½ to 1 Kg supermarkets North, Disco, Carrefour and Jumbo, and manufactures some of the premium brands of signature Molinos Rio de la Plata.
  • The Cachuera S.A. does the same for supermarkets Marolio.
  • Establishment Las Marías S.A. The stock produced for supermarkets.
  • Navar S.A. does the same for Wal-Mart supermarket.

Local consumption

In our country, consumption has extraordinary levels, yerba mate is present in 90% of Argentine households and 75% of consumers does every day. The particularity is that it is an infusion charged with meanings that go beyond the traditional consumption, being the single largest infusion of our customs, but also one of our most distinctive and unique habits. Consumption is in the 6.4 kg / person / year. These values would be equivalent to about 100 liters of mate.

Regarding the participation shelf of the so-called "economic herbs”, which have no tradition marks square, it was sporadic and failed to succeed. Much has to do with the fact that consumers tend to remain faithful to the traditional.

It also envisions a greater turnover in the traditional retail channel. It is proportional to the decrease that was recorded in the share of supermarkets in sales. Note that in the decade of the'90s, it took them almost 70% of the marketing of tea.

In the first quarter of 2005, maté prepared and stamped, the milling industry output reached 55,785,573. This volume is 3% lower if compared with same period last year. However, it is hoped a more dynamic business because sales are moving in favor of wholesale marketing centers that are supplying the retail channel comprising kiosks, self storage, mini, etc., Which achieve a nearly 65% of total sales. The grass is still the traditional favorite among Argentineans. The segment with yerba stick represents 73% of the market and with this feature consolidates a package format, that of 500gs, which buys 55% of the population.

International trade

In 2004, exports of yerba mate reached 31,000 tons, valued at over $ 19 million. The sales were made up of 75% of yerba mate prepared and the remaining 25% for grass court.

If the numbers are checked against the same period the previous year, the total exports implies a fall of 22% in volume, but exports had a greater value than the previous year, the value has risen by a 2%.

It should be noted that total exports in 2003 reached 39,200 tonnes, worth 18.6 million dollars.

The major destination countries that comprise 92% of exports of yerba mate Argentina are: Syria involved with 62% of total exports to Chile 11%, Brazil 9%, 7% Uruguay, Lebanon 3.5%.

It is estimated that this year, there will be a substantial increase in sales volumes to Brazil and Paraguay, which are also producers. These countries were affected its manufacturing sector, the major drought that resulted in key players from the end of last year. Moreover, both the Chilean and Uruguayan market, countries that have incorporated into their diets Brazilian yerba mate, compared to the situation, it is considered that moved many of the orders to our country.

Brazil is a producer with an industrial process that is fundamentally different to ours. The deterioration of their mate is because of lack of rain that has not generated as in previous years, the balance for export to our markets, which could improve our performance in the international market.

Regarding the analysis of the first quarter of the current year, 8,300 tonnes exported 5.3 million dollars FOB, representing an increase of 26% by volume and 51% their value. It should be noted that 79% of goods sold related to yerba mate prepared and the remaining 21% to maté stadium, Syria remains the main destination country of Paraguay and grass ground in court.

In the context of developments in the international market, it appreciates that traceability is becoming an attribute of voluntary and commercial differentiation becomes, in some cases, a prerequisite for the sale, as shows, for instance, the Bioterrorism Act of United States.

Official rules

Stamping is a measure implemented from 1 June 2003 by the National Institute of Yerba Mate (INYM) and from October 1st this year, is compulsory throughout the country.

The design of the stamp recognizes four types: green for the packaging of 1 / 4 pound, light blue for the 1 / 2 kilo, red for 1 kil and yellow for those of 2 kilos. Less than 250 grams bears the stamp for the packaging of one quarter.

Also provides, in respect of Audit and Inspection fee, charge 4 cents for each kilo of weight of the finished product is offered in gondolas of the shops. With this rate, the Agency intends to provide resources as outlined by law, must be used for product promotion and diversification projects and conversion of plantations to meet their production cycle or because of their low productivity are economically unfeasible.

INYM deemed to apply some 303 million stamps in total. For packages of 1 kilo, 115,500,000 stamps, and for half a kilo, 172,200,000 stamps; of quarter kilo, two stamps and 12,600,000 pounds 2,625,000 stamps.


From chemical analysis, yerba mate comes to the level of vitamins B1 and B6 of 100 grams of pot is enough to satisfy 100% and 47% respectively of the recommended daily dose (DDR). Moreover infusion is diuretic, digestive and stimulant, the latter based on its content of caffeine and to a lesser extent, theobromine.

Recent work by Argentine scientists in the country, have shown that infusions of yerba mate, or mate as cebadura possess a high antioxidant activity, determined by their high content of chlorogenic acids.

Also showed that, taking a portion of a mate has antioxidant activity equals to that of a similar portion of green tea. In both cases, the antioxidant activity is higher than the infusion of black tea.

Sources consulted

Chamber of Producers of Industrial Corrientes - House Millers Production Area - EEA-INTA Cerro Azul, Misiones - UNAM - INDEC - National Customs Administration - SAGPyA Regulations - Ministry of Production and Agro-National Directorate of Missions SAGPyA food.

Author: Luis Alberto De Bernardi
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food Secretariat
Agricultural Policy and Foods National Food

Ministry of Economy - Buenos Aires, Republica Argentina

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Tags: argentina herb infusion tradition yerba mate

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4 Reviews about Argentina's Yerba Mate
on 10/12/2014
I would love to chat with the author of this great article. I am looking for yerba Mate manufacturing equipment suppliers- dryers, roasting etc...
on 04/09/2014
Oh yaaay! This was such a great article and I just love yerba mate SO much! I spent a year in Argentina in 2008 and just fell in LOVE with the entire culture of drinking mate. Not only the taste and how it makes me feel, but the friends and sharing, all of the memories of going to the plaza or my friends' houses and drinking mate. Eating "facturas". Great article.
on 10/11/2013
I have tasted this yerba mate and it is pretty delicious, maybe people have stopped drinking coffee by including more mate in their lives, but still it has a huge caffeine content, less damaging tough. It is good to see that there are many importers of this product, and that there are great rules to avoid problems in the production
on 26/02/2010
Necesito saber si hay yerba mate sin cafeína.

Podrían Vds, informarme.

Me han prohibido todo lo que tenga cafeína y no puedo vivir sin mate.

Su pronta respuesta sera apreciada.



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