Argentina modifies soybean export tax timing in boost to shippers

BUENOS AIRES, April 3 (Reuters) - Argentina will apply export taxes on soybeans and soy products on the shipment date, rather than the date a deal closes, the Agricultural Ministry said in a decree published in the country’s official gazette on Tuesday.

The change will allow exporters to pay lower tax rates, since the government has announced plans to cut the rate by 0.5 percentage points per month through December 2019. The export tax rate is currently 28 percent for soybeans and 26 percent for soybean meal and soybean oil.

The South American country is the world’s No. 3 exporter of raw soybeans and the top shipper of soybean meal and oil. Grains tradehouses such as Bunge Ltd, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus have crushing operations in the country.

“This was a long-awaited necessity for the export sector, mostly in soy, to unlock forward deals in soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil,” Agriculture Minister Luis Miguel Etchevehere said in a statement from the ministry.

Shortly after taking office in December 2015, President Mauricio Macri eliminated export taxes on corn and wheat and began gradually reducing them on soybeans in a bid to revive the farm sector, the backbone of Latin America’s third-largest economy.

That contributed to bumper corn and wheat crops in recent years. But a severe drought has prompted analysts to cut estimates for the 2017/18 corn and soybean harvests, with the latter seen by the Buenos Aires grains exchange at just 39.5 million tonnes, which would be the smallest in nine years. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Susan Thomas)