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Argentine showers not enough for soybeans

02/01/2012 @ 3:30pm

Showers in Argentina over the past days fell far short of providing the soaking needed for the parched soybean crop to recover, the Rosario Grain Exchange said Wednesday.

"The recent rains weren't sufficient...and the recovery of the soy crop has been complicated," the exchange's GEA agricultural weather department said.

Soil moisture levels are still extremely low in much of the central farm belt, GEA said.

Argentina is the world's second-largest corn exporter, leads soyoil and soymeal exports and ranks third in global soybean exports. Global grain traders have been watching weather conditions in both Argentina and Brazil closely for signs of a break in the drought which would stem crop losses.

However, the corn crop has already suffered major losses with potential production down by over a third. Early in the season, many had expected production to top 30 million tons. Now, the Rosario exchange is predicting corn output of just 21.4 metric tons.

While there is still time for the soybean crop to rebound, some yield losses are irreversible and many fields have low soybean pod counts.

Analysts are predicting 2011-12 soybean production of between 45 million and 49.5 million tons--well short of the record 54.5 million tons harvested in the 2009-10 season.

While recent showers are a boon, below-average rainfall is expected to continue in the coming months due to the La Nina weather phenomenon.

La Nina involves the periodic cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that usually brings dry weather to the farm belts of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and the south of Brazil.

La Nina is expected to fade in March or April, but its effects will linger through the southern hemisphere winter with dryness continuing until October or November, according to Eduardo Sierra, chief climatologist for the Buenos Aires Cereals Exchange.

Estimates for Argentina's 2011-12 crop production in million of hectares (HA) or millions of metric tons (MT) (One hectare equals 2.47 acres):

                     Wheat      Soy         Corn        Sunseed 
 
B.A. Cereals Exch    14MT       46.2MT      22MT         3.5MT 
Ag Ministry          13.4MT     48.9MT      23MT         1.8HA 
USDA                 14.5MT     50.5MT      26MT         3.2MT 
Rosario Grain Exch   13.7MT     49.5MT      21.4MT       -- 
Agritrend            --         46MT        21MT         3.3MT 
Granar               --         47.8-49MT   18.5-20.2MT  3.5MT 
Panagricola          --         45MT        21MT         -- 
Agripac              --         49MT        27MT         -- 
Lartirigoyen         --         45.5MT      18.5MT       3.4MT

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

                    Wheat      Soy         Corn        Sunseed 
2010-11              15         49          22.5         3.6 
2009-10              9.6        54.5        22.5         2.3 
2008-09              10.1       32          15           2.9 
2007-08              18.6       46.2        22           4.65 
2006-07              16.3       48.8        22.5         --

-By Shane Romig, Dow Jones Newswires; 54-11-4103-6738; shane.romig@dowjones.com

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