UPDATE 3-Argentina 2020/21 corn crop forecast raised to 50 mln T -Rosario exchange

(Adds weekly report from Buenos Aires Grains Exchange)

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, April 22 (Reuters) - Argentina's 2020/21 corn production will hit 50 million tonnes, up from 48.5 million tonnes previously forecast, due to a higher planting area and good yields in Cordoba province, the Rosario grains exchange said in a report https://www.bcr.com.ar/es/mercados/gea/estimaciones-nacionales-de-produc... late on Wednesday.

Its soy crop forecast was unchanged at 45 million tonnes.

Argentina is the world's No. 3 corn exporter. Corn sowing in the country starts in September and the harvest ends in July.

Cordoba province "will have a record harvest. This will be fundamental to sustaining national corn production since it will contribute 42% of total volume," the exchange said.

Unlike other agricultural provinces such as Buenos Aires and Santa Fe, Cordoba was not punished by the drought that hit the Pampas grains belt from mid-2020 through February. March and April rains eased concerns about drought-related crop losses.

Cordoba province "will have a record harvest. This will be fundamental to sustaining national corn production since it will contribute 42% of total volume," the exchange said.

The prolonged dryness recently prompted the Rosario exchange to cut its 2020/21 soy harvest estimate to 45 million tonnes from a previous forecast of 49 million tonnes.

But it has rained so much recently that corn and soy harvesting has been delayed, as multi-tonne combines cannot move over farmland without getting bogged down in the mud.

The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said in a report on Thursday that soy harvesting is 38 percentage points slower than last year's while corn lags by 17.5 percentage points. It said 18.5% of soy crops have been harvested along with 17% of corn.

It agreed that corn crops in Cordoba had "excellent performance expectations."

Last week the Buenos Aires exchange increased its 2020/21 corn crop forecast 46 million tonnes from a previous estimate of 45 million, citing better than expected yields.

Argentina is the world's top supplier of soymeal feed, used to fatten hogs and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia. But crop sales have been slower than usual this year, despite high prices, as growers use corn and soy stockpiles as a hedge against the anemic peso.

The local currency has weakened 28.85% over the last 12 months to 93 per U.S. dollar.

The tendency to hoard grains is hitting just as Argentina needs export revenue to help dig itself out of recession while COVID-19 cases spike and uncertainty abounds ahead of October congressional elections. Farmers fret that the vote might set the stage for increased government intervention in the markets. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; writing by Adam Jourdan and Hugh Bronstein; editing by Jason Neely, David Evans and Marguerita Choy)

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