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La Superintendencia de Competencia (SC) y la concentración en mercados agropecuarios de productos de consumo básico

Por Jorge Pleitez*.

Desde su creación en 2006, la Superintendencia de Competencia (SC) ha desarrollando una serie de actividades en defensa de la competencia. El Art. 13, literal “c” de su Ley, le faculta para realizar estudios técnicos, teniendo como principal objetivo la promoción de la competencia mediante la identificación de barreras a la entrada, propuestas de reformas legales y/o de políticas públicas y la difusión de la cultura de competencia.

La SC ha elaborado diecinueve estudios de competencia relacionados con diferentes sectores de la economía. De éstos, cinco corresponden a mercados relacionados directamente con productos agropecuarios y que forman parte de la canasta básica alimentaria (avicultura, azúcar, leche, quesos y arroz). Además, la SC elaboró el estudio sobre el mercado de fertilizantes.

En 2007 se realizó el estudio sobre las condiciones de competencia en la agroindustria avícola. Se encontró que en el segmento de incubación de aves ponedoras existe un monopolio producto de un convenio de exclusividad de una empresa que opera a nivel centroamericano y una radicada en Estados Unidos que provee la genética aviar de la raza de pollitas ponedoras preferida en El Salvador por su alto rendimiento (Hy Line).

En el segmento de producción y distribución de huevo de mesa existen 600 granjas que se dedican a esta actividad, cinco empresas concentran el 73% del mercado, dos el 46%. Estas dos junto a otra de menor tamaño distribuyen la producción a través de una comercializadora que presenta una cuota de mercado del 51%.

En producción de carne aviar se registran 100 granjas dedicadas a la crianza de pollos de engorde. La genética para la incubación de pollitos broilers es provista por tres empresas, dos de las cuales tienen una cuota de mercado del 81%. La producción de carne de pollo se concentra en dos empresas, con una participación del 70% del mercado. Adicionalmente, este mercado presenta un alto grado de concentración horizontal, en incubación y en producción de pollos.

El estudio sobre las condiciones de competencia en la agroindustria del azúcar elaborado en 2008 indica que se trata de un mercado altamente concentrado, producto de su marco   normativo. Las importaciones de azúcar procedentes de terceros países deben pagar un arancel del 40%.

A nivel regional, aunque existe libre comercio entre los países, los importadores nacionales deben solicitar una licencia especial de importación al titular del Ministerio de Economía, solicitud que debe ser sometida a un análisis técnico. Producto de esta situación, las importaciones de azúcar procedentes de la región han sido mínimas durante el período del estudio (2003/07) alcanzando apenas los 408 quintales. Lo anterior, implica que los consumidores nacionales tengamos que pagar precios más altos que los pagados en el mercado internacional.

El mecanismo de asignación del porcentaje de la demanda total que los ingenios deben procesar y vender al mercado interno, preferencial y mundial genera una elevada concentración de mercado. Para el año 2007, dos de los seis ingenios procesaron el 68.9% de la caña y tres el 84.1%.

Por otra parte, en la distribución mayorista del azúcar existe una marcada integración vertical entre los ingenios, la única empresa empacadora y las tres distribuidoras que a su vez conforman un mismo grupo económico. Una de estas tres empresas concentra el 75% de la distribución mayorista a nivel nacional. Es importante destacar la existencia de vinculaciones accionarias entre los ingenios, la empresa empacadora y las tres distribuidoras mayoristas.

El mercado del azúcar se caracteriza por una clara discriminación; la empresa con poder de dominio -propiedad de los mismos ingenios- muchas veces se niega a vender el producto a granel, así como de imponer condiciones de venta de hasta el 75% de azúcar empacada y solo un 25% a granel. Además, impone precios diferenciados en los distintos canales de distribución, situación que pone en desventaja a potenciales distribuidores mayoristas. El estudio arrojó que como producto de la protección y regulación del sector, los consumidores nacionales pagamos un sobreprecio de US$12.5 millones anuales.

Otro mercados analizado es el de la agroindustria de la leche. El estudio elaborado en 2009 reveló que la producción de leche cruda se encuentra atomizada. Existen unos 67,000 productores, la mayoría de ellos pequeños ganaderos informales, lo que indica un bajo nivel de concentración en la oferta de leche cruda.

La demanda de este producto es ejercida por unas 646 plantas procesadoras, que producen leche pasteurizada y no pasteurizada, así como otros productos lácteos, 6 de estas plantas son de tipo industrial y absorben el 13% de la demanda. Se observa una estructura desconcentrada de compras de leche cruda. En leche pasteurizada y en polvo, el estudio reflejó que existe un mercado altamente concentrado. En el año 2008, tres empresas en conjunto presentaron una cuota de mercado del 71.7% de las ventas.

En quesos, el estudio elaborado en 2010, incluyó una investigación en el segmento de quesos artesanales e industriales (queso duro, fresco, quesillo y procesado). El estudio concluyó que existen 600 plantas artesanales, 38 semi industriales y 8 industriales.

En el mercado de quesos artesanales el nivel de concentración es bajo. Esta situación es distinta cuando se trata de la producción y distribución de quesos industriales, mercado considerado como de alta concentración.

En 2009, el mercado de “queso duro” estuvo concentrado en tres agentes económicos con una participación del 78%, cuatro con el 88%. En quesos frescos, tres agentes tenían una participación del 71% y cuatro el 80%. En quesillo, tres tenían una participación del 72% y cuatro el 88%; y en queso procesado, tres concentraban el 94% y cuatro el 99%.

Otro mercado estratégico para la seguridad alimentaria es el arroz. El estudio fue elaborado en 2009 y actualizado en 2012. Éste concluyó que en el país existen 1,785 productores de arroz y 17 procesadores que además importan arroz granza y oro, se trata de un mercado altamente concentrado. Durante el período 2005/2011, dos empresas concentraron en promedio el 78.6% de las compras de arroz granza mediante el convenio de compra-venta entre productores e industriales, las mismas dos empresas importaron el 80.5% de arroz granza y vendieron el 78.5% del total de arroz oro.

El nivel de concentración se explica por el marco normativo que garantiza al sector una alta protección, lo que se traduce en pérdida de bienestar para los consumidores locales debido al pago de sobreprecios. Por ejemplo, los precios pagados al productor de arroz granza dentro del convenio fueron más altos que los precios de importación. Por otra parte, los precios pagados por los distribuidores mayoristas a las dos empresas que importan y concentran el 78.5% de las ventas de arroz oro fueron superiores a los precios de importación del arroz oro.

Las transferencias estimadas, producto de los elevados márgenes de ganancia, principalmente de los industriales, suman los US$8.8 millones durante el período 2006/2011, el 72.7% de los mismos se distribuyó a los industriales y el 27.3% a los productores de arroz granza.

Por otra parte, el estudio sobre fertilizantes concluyó en que dos empresas controlan el 97.7% del mercado. Estas son empresas de grupos empresariales de capitales centroamericanos con presencia en la región, que importan, fraccionan, empacan y distribuyen fertilizantes importados. En el eslabón de la distribución minorista existe un total de 833 agroservicios, quienes únicamente son tomadores de precios.

Desde el punto de vista de la teoría económica, la concentración no implica necesariamente el cometimiento de prácticas anticompetitivas. Sin embargo, la experiencia de los mercados agropecuarios estudiados indica que se cometen prácticas anticompetitivas aprovechando la posición de dominio (caso azúcar) y se sacrifica el bienestar de los consumidores a través de la transferencia de elevados márgenes de ganancia (caso arroz).

El cometimiento de este tipo de prácticas es posible debido a la existencia de marcos normativos proteccionistas que colocan en ventaja a determinados agentes económicos de mayor tamaño respecto a otros participantes en el mercado.

A la fecha, las condiciones de competencia en los mercados examinados prácticamente se mantienen sin mayores alteraciones ya que las recomendaciones de política pública sugeridas por la Superintendencia de Competencia en su mayoría no han sido acatadas por las instituciones de gobierno involucradas. Esta situación, tiene un impacto directo en la eficiencia económica de los mercados y en la seguridad alimentaria de los sectores de más bajos ingresos, por tratarse de productos de la canasta básica alimentaria: carne de pollo, huevos, leche, queso, azúcar y arroz.

* El autor es economista de la Universidad de El Salvador, cuenta con una maestría en Desarrollo Rural de la Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica y un postgrado en Formulación y Evaluación de Políticas Públicas de la Universidad de Depaul, Estados Unidos. Laboró en la Oficina de Políticas y Estrategias del Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería. Actualmente, es investigador en Competencia de la Unidad de Estudios de la Intendencia Económica de la Superintendencia de Competencia.

 

– Los comentarios en este artículo expresan la opinión del autor –

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