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Argentina wheat planting area seen rising again after bumper harvest

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, March 13 (Reuters) - Argentina's wheat planting area will rise again in 2019/20, industry experts told Reuters, which could mean another bumper harvest after a record wheat crop last season.

The area could reach up to 6.9 million hectares, analysts and farmers said, which would be the fourth consecutive increase and a rise from 6.3 million hectares in the 2018/19 season when the country produced a record 19.5 million tonnes of wheat.

Argentina is one of the top 10 wheat exporters in the world, sending much of the crop to neighbor Brazil, with $3.2 billion in exports from the most recent harvest.

"Everything points to what is going to be a fine campaign, and without doubt wheat will be the main protagonist," said Jorge Marcenac, a farmer from Pigüé, in the southwest of Buenos Aires province, the bread basket of Argentina.

Marcenac, who chairs the local rural society, said planting area for wheat and other winter crops in the Pigüé region would be raised versus other crops such as soy beans, Argentina's main crop.

Pablo Adreani, the head of consultancy AgriPac, said he was expecting a planting area of ​​up to 6.9 million hectares, helped by robust prices.

"Although at the time of sowing there may be lower prices (than currently), they are still very good," he said, referring to the planting season in April.

Official data showed on Tuesday wheat being traded at an average price of $180 per tonne in Argentina, down from $205 a month ago but in line with the $187 registered last year, which helped propel the record 2018/19 season.

"Producers start with more incentive than in other years," said Gustavo López, head of consultancy Agritrend, which estimates a planting area of up to 6.6 million hectares.

"Wheat is still an interesting option; they had spectacular harvests this year and the quality was very good."

The head of the agricultural estimates department at the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange, Esteban Copati, added that heavy rains over recent weeks in the central region of Argentina have left good reserves of moisture for planting. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Adam Jourdan Editing by James Dalgleish)

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