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Argentina expects bumper corn crop

09/05/2013 @ 3:01pm

Argentina's corn planting kicked off this week, with expectations for a bumper crop despite dry weather that is slowing progress in some areas.

To date, farmers have planted less than a half of one percent of the 3.56 million hectares (8.8 million acres) expected to be sown with corn this season, the Buenos Aires Cereals Exchange said in its weekly crop report Thursday.

The 2013-14 corn area is expected to be down 3.2% from the 2012-13 season, when farmers grew a record 24.8 million metric tons of corn, according to the exchange.

Argentina is the world's third-largest corn exporter behind the U.S. and Brazil and markets are expecting record or near record crops from all three this season. Global corn stocks in 2013-14 are set to rise to the highest level in more than a decade, which has sent prices plummeting recently, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA forecasts Argentina's 2013-14 corn production at a record 27 million tons.

For now, fields are dry in many of Argentina's northern fields. That is slowing planting, but there is still plenty of time to put seed to soil, Buenos Aires Cereals Exchange chief agricultural analyst Esteban Copati said.

There is some cause for concern. Significant delays could cut into yields. Higher costs for corn seed and fertilizers, lower global prices and negotiations over field lease agreements are issues to watch and could cause farmers to fall short of early planting expectations, Mr. Copati said.

Gathering clouds bode well, however. Warm winds are expected to sweep down from the north in the coming days, bringing warmer weather and much-needed rain to many of Argentina's fields.

Those showers will also ease worries about the developing winter wheat crop, which is beginning to show signs of stress, the exchange said.

Wheat planting rose to 3.9 million hectares this season, up from 3.6 million hectares last season, according to the exchange.

However, that is still down sharply from the historical average as government export controls drove down local prices and fueled a shift to other winter crops such as barley.

Estimates for Argentina's 2013-14 crop production in millions of hectares (HA) or millions of metric tons (MT). (One hectare equals 2.47 acres):

Wheat    Soy    Corn     Sunseed 
   USDA               12MT     53.5MT 27MT     3.4MT 
   Ag Ministry         4HA      --     --       -- 
   B.A. Cereals Exch  3.9HA     --    3.56HA   1.9HA

Argentina's historical production in millions of metric tons, according to the Agriculture Ministry:

Wheat    Soy     Corn    Sunseed 
   2012-13            9MT      50.6MT  25.7MT  3.1MT 
   2011-12            14.5     40.1    21.2    3.3 
   2010-11            15.9     48.9    24      3.7 
   2009-10             9       52.7    22.7    2.3 
   2008-09             8.4     31      13.1    2.5

Write to Shane Romig at shane.romig@dowjones.com

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