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Scarce rains in Argentina pile on trouble for grain crops

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Scarce and patchy rain forecast for Argentina's main breadbasket regions will likely compound a difficult start to the season for key crops including wheat and corn, a farm weather expert said on Monday, as drought conditions mostly prevail.

Rains are expected only for northern portions of the fertile Pampas region later this week, while key farming areas like northern Buenos Aires and southern Santa Fe provinces are likely to see no rainfall at all, said German Heinzenknecht, a CCA consultancy meteorologist.

Meanwhile, only around 0.2 inches (5 mm) of rain was registered late last week in the country's parched farmlands, with isolated showers generating 0.8 inches (20 mm), said Heinzenknecht.

"The demand for rain is much higher," he said.

The dry weather comes just as wheat farmers approach the crucial wheat harvest months of November through January, when the 2022/23 crop is gathered.

Argentina is a top global grains supplier, and farm exports also supply crucial revenue for the country's cash-strapped government.

Last week, dry conditions dating back to May forced another round of downward revisions to crop forecasts.

A senior analyst at the key Rosario grains exchange told Reuters the 2022/23 wheat harvest would likely come in at 16 million tonnes, a 500,000-tonne cut from the entity's previous formal forecast.

A separate wheat crop estimate from the Buenos Aires grains exchange (BCR) estimated a 16.5 million-tonne harvest, down from the exchange's prior forecast of 17.5 million tonnes.

The BCR also pointed late last week to insufficient soil humidity in some areas that has already led to delays in corn plantings. The exchange estimates that around 90% of eight million hectares will be so-called late corn, which is less productive than early corn.

Only around 16% of the 2022/23 corn crop has been planted so far, according to official data, or about 12 percentage points behind last season's plantings at the same time.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by David Alire Garcia; editing by David Evans)

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