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Rains in Argentina Grains Belt Provide Relief to Parched Soy, Corn

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Rains in Argentina's central Pampas farm belt on Friday provided relief to the parched soy and corn crops after weeks of drought prompted reduction in harvest estimates, said Eduardo Sierra, a climate expert at the Buenos Aires grains exchange.

"The rains are modest, but they arrived just in time to limit the damage," Sierra said by phone, adding that the rains had hit Cordoba province, southern Santa Fe province, and northern Buenos Aires province - the core growing areas of the world's No. 3 exporter of corn and raw soybeans.

Dry weather had previously prompted the exchange to slash its estimates for the 2017/18 soy and corn crops to 50 million tonnes and 39 million tonnes, respectively. The drought prompted spikes in grains futures prices on the Chicago Board of Trade, where soybean futures hit two-week highs on Thursday.

While climate experts say more rains are expected beginning mid-February, some believe those rains will not be enough to reverse the damage of the drought.

Argentina is the world's No. 1 exporter of soybean oil and soy meal. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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