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Record Argentina soybean area

11/15/2012 @ 11:57am

Argentina's soybean area in the 2012-13 season is likely to reach a record 19.36 million hectares, up from 18.67 million hectares last season, the Agriculture Ministry said in its weekly crop report Thursday.

The forecast is the first for the 2012-13 soy crop from the government and is in line with private forecasts. The Buenos Aires Cereals exchange is forecasting a soybean area of 19.7 million hectares this season.

Argentina is the world's No. 3 soybean exporter behind Brazil and the U.S. and is the world's leading exporter of soyoil and soymeal. Prices of corn and soybeans have surged this year after drought battered U.S. crops and stoked supply fears.

Despite the slow start to planting, Argentina's farmers are on track to shatter production records for both soybeans and corn this season, encouraged by high global prices and aided by wet weather.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expecting Argentina to grow a record 55 million metric tons of soybeans this season, up from the previous record of 52.7 million tons set during the 2009-10 season.

To date, just 22% of the fields expected to go to soy have been planted, down 15.4 percentage points on the year, according to the Buenos Aires Cereals exchange.

Heavy rainfall blamed on the El Nino weather pattern over the past two months flooded many areas and delayed planting, although a recent spate of sunny weather has allowed conditions to improve.

The wet conditions has also slowed corn planting in Argentina, the world's No. 2 corn exporter.

So far, 45% or the 3.4 million hectares expected to go to corn this season have been planted, down 17 percentage points on the year. Planting is currently stalled due to the wet soil in many areas and as farmers focus on soybean planting, although corn planting is expected to get back on track in the coming weeks, the Buenos Aires exchange said in its weekly crop report Thursday.

Early on, expectations had been for a record 28 million tons of 2012-13 corn production, but output is now likely to be 26 million to 27 million tons because of the planting delay, according to the corn growers association Maizar.

That will still top Argentina's previous corn record of 24 million tons during the 2010-11 season and is up sharply from the 21 million tons harvested during the drought-ravaged 2011-12 season.

Estimates for Argentina's 2012-13 crop production in millions of hectares or millions of metric tons. (One hectare equals 2.47 acres): 
                      Wheat    Soy    Corn     Sunseed 
   B.A. Cereals Exch  10.1MT   19.7HA 3.4HA    1.8HA 
   Rosario Grain Exch 3.6HA    --     4HA      -- 
   USDA               11.5MT   55MT   28MT     4MT 
   Ag Ministry        11.5MT   19.4HA 4.98HA   --

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

Wheat    Soy     Corn    Sunseed 
   2011-12            13.2     40.1    21      3.3 
   2010-11            15.8     48.9    24      3.7 
   2009-10             9       52.7    22.7    2.3 
   2008-09             8.4     31      13.1    2.5 
   2007-08             16.4    46.2    22      4.7 
   2006-07             14.6    47.5    21.8    3.5

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

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