(Adds comparative wheat harvest estimates)
By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES Jan 9 Argentina's dry, hot
December, which caused yield damage to the country's budding
2013/14 corn crop, has given way to a wet January and forecasts
of a wet February that should ensure a healthy soy harvest,
experts said on Thursday.
The South American grains powerhouse is the world's No. 3
exporter of both crops, and the top supplier of soymeal animal
feed at a time of booming demand from China. Weeks of
drought-like December weather took an irreversible toll on corn,
while 2013/14 soy, which is planted later, escaped extreme
"In January we've had good rains, and the forecasts indicate
it will keep raining for the rest of the month and in February,"
said Eduardo Sierra, climate consultant to the Buenos Aires
Temperatures are also falling around the Pampas grains belt,
giving crops a break from the scorching start of the Southern
Hemisphere summer. Temperatures in Argentina's main farm
province of Buenos Aires are expected to remain below 35 degrees
centigrade over the week ahead.
"Soybeans are doing well because it is planted later than
corn. The December heat struck while soy plants were still in
their vegetative state, which slowed development but allowed
them to escape permanent damage," Sierra said.
"The situation for corn is less favorable. It was planted
earlier than soy. So the heat wave in December hit just as corn
plants were in their reproductive state," he added.
He said he expects a soybean crop of about 50 million tonnes
this season and about 20 million tonnes of corn.
December's dry spell also took a toll on 2013/14 wheat, 98
percent of which had been collected by Thursday, according to a
weekly report from the grains exchange that forecast a harvest
of 10.10 million tonnes, down from a previous estimate of 10.35
The Rosario grains exchange sees a wheat crop of 9.5 million
tonnes this season while the agriculture ministry expects a 9
million tonne harvest.
As of Thursday, Argentina farmers had planted 91 percent of
the soybeans expected to go into the ground this season, and 83
percent of the corn, the Buenos Aires exchange said.
The Argentine government has yet to offer harvest forecasts
for the 2013/14 crop year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture
expects the country to produce 54.5 million tonnes of soy and 26
million tonnes of corn.
Pablo Adreani, head of AgriPAC consultants in Buenos Aires,
recently lowered his estimate for 2013/14 corn to 25 million
tonnes from 28 million. "The reason for the decrease in
expectations is the drought," he said.
If January and February see good rains on the Pampas,
Adreani said he may restore part of his earlier corn forecast,
and increase the 56 million tonne forecast he has made for
(Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath and Maximiliano
Rizzi; Editing by Stephen Powell, James Dalgleish and Peter