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Argentina's Massa 'more than optimistic' IMF reserve targets met

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Argentine Economy Minister Sergio Massa said on Friday he is "more than optimistic" that the government met foreign reserve and budget goals set by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) debt deal thanks to a recent policy incentivizing soybean sales.

The policy, which kicked off on Sept. 5 and ended on Friday, generated an avalanche of soybean exports by offering a preferential exchange rate, allowing about $7.65 billion to flow into central bank coffers, said Massa.

"I am more than optimistic that we will meet the third-quarter targets for reserves and fiscal matters that Argentina had committed to at the international level," the minister told a news conference, adding that the review processes will end early next week.

Earlier this month, the IMF reached a staff-level agreement on Argentina's $44 billion extended debt deal, which should unlock nearly $4 billion in funds for the South American nation.

The deal entails economic goals, including rebuilding depleted foreign reserves as well as cutting a deep budget deficit to improve the government's stretched finances.

In Argentina, agro-exporters are obliged to convert the dollars they receive from sales into the local peso currency.

The program allowed soybean farmers a temporary, preferential exchange rate of 200 pesos per U.S. dollar from sales, significantly above the official exchange rate currently hovering around 147 pesos.

The sweetener was designed to appeal to soybean farmers who had resisted selling more of their stocks, and attract much-needed hard currency for the central bank.

The program allowed farmers to sell almost 14 million tonnes of soybeans from Sept. 5-29, the Rosario grains exchange said, a much higher amount than the 1.5 million tonnes sold in August, according to agriculture ministry data. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Sandra Maler)

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