* Argentina consumes 6 mln T of wheat domestically each year
* Wheat output seen at 10.1 million tonnes this crop year
* Argentina a top grains exporter at a time of rising demand
(Adds farmer quote, background, byline)
By Hugh Bronstein and Karina Grazina
BUENOS AIRES, March 6 Grains powerhouse
Argentina has authorized exports of 5 million tonnes of wheat
for the crop that farmers will begin planting in the coming
months, sources said on Wednesday, a move that could help ease
concerns about tight global supplies.
An industry source, who asked not to be named, and a
government source, who also asked for anonymity, told Reuters
that officials told farmers of the 2013/14 wheat export quota at
special meeting held on Wednesday night.
Argentina is a major world supplier of soy, corn and wheat
at a time when consumer nations are clamoring for South American
grains to compensate for disappointing harvests in breadbaskets
Russia, the United States and Australia.
The United Nations food agency warned last month that
adverse crop weather could cause violent price spikes this year
due to tight world grains stocks.
Benchmark Chicago wheat futures, however, were trading
this week at their lowest in almost nine months as heavy snows
in top exporter the United States eased dryness in key growing
areas and boosted production estimates.
Argentina restricts exports of wheat to ensure ample
domestic food supplies. The government also approved an
additional 1 million tonnes of 2012/13 wheat for export at the
meeting, bringing the current season's total exportable surplus
to 3 million tonnes, the sources said.
The agriculture ministry estimates the recently completed
2012/13 wheat harvest at 10.1 million tonnes. The crop was
reduced by early season flooding and will be far under the 14.1
million collected in the 2011/12 season.
Internal wheat demand in Argentina is about 6 million
Growers say the curbs placed on international wheat sales
keep them guessing about how much wheat to plant and some have
shifted to alternative crops that can be exported freely like
soy and beer barley.
Wednesday's announcement came earlier than in previous
years, which may help farmers plan for the upcoming season.
Wheat planting in Argentina starts in late May and ends in
August, with most seeds going into the ground in June and July.
Argentine soy farming has exploded in recent years as
growers seek to avoid export curbs that the government slaps on
corn and wheat. Barley output has shot to just under 5 million
tonnes from less than 800,000 tonnes in the 2005/06 crop year,
before the curbs went into effect.
President Cristina Fernandez has increased the government's
role in Latin America's third-biggest economy, often putting her
at odds with farmers who say her policies are chasing off
investment and keeping the country from meeting its full
agricultural potential at a time of rising world food demand.
"We don't need an export quota, whether it be announced
early or late in the season," said Santiago del Solar, who
manages farmland in the main agricultural province of Buenos
Aires. "In order for the wheat sector to prosper, we need to go
back to a free market."
(Editing by Gary Hill, Steve Orlofsky, Lisa Shumaker and Ed