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Argentina's wheat production forecast cut again as bad weather bites

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Argentina's wheat crop is seen sliding again due to prolonged drought plus a recent cold snap, with a grains exchange slashing its production forecast for the main bread and pasta ingredient by nearly 8% in the second downward revision over the past week.

The current 2022/2023 wheat crop is estimated at 15.2 million tonnes, down from last week's forecast of 16.5 million tonnes, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange (BdeC) said in its weekly report on Thursday.

Agricultural powerhouse Argentina is one of the world's top wheat exporters, as well as a major supplier of soybeans and corn.

The global supply of wheat in particular has tightened significantly since Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine nearly eight months ago. Both countries are big wheat producers.

BdeC also cut its projection for fields planted with corn to 7.3 million hectares from 7.5 million hectares estimated last week, down about 3% and blamed on the months-long drought.

Freezes from Oct. 8-9 in key areas planted with wheat caused significant damage to expected yields, according to the exchange, which also reported that 53% of wheat-planted areas are experiencing between regular and bad conditions.

On Wednesday, the Rosario grains exchange lowered its wheat crop forecast to 15 million tonnes.

The new estimates for the 2022/2023 wheat harvesting season, in which most of the grain is gathered from November to January, are all far below last season's crop of 22.4 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, Argentina's corn farmers have to date planted 17% of their corn-designated fields for the 2022/2023 season, or down more than 9 percentage points compared to the same time during the previous cycle.

The slow pace of corn planting is due to the lack of optimal soil humidity, the BdeC report noted, which is also seen hitting yields since early planted corn tends to be more productive. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Editing by Isabel Woodford and Aurora Ellis)

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