(Corrects Jan 24 story to show shipments highest since 1998, not highest ever )
By Michael Hirtzer
Jan 24 (Reuters) - U.S. exporters shipped the most soymeal in nearly 16 years last week as farmers in Argentina, the top exporter of the animal feed, hoarded soybeans amid a plunging peso, analysts said on Friday.
The U.S. exporters loaded out 398,591 tonnes of soymeal, primarily to Asian destinations such as South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. That was the biggest weekly shipment since April 1998, when exporters loaded 433,498 tonnes, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.
“The peso is the reason why soymeal exports are so large - Argentina is out of the program,” said Terry Reilly, senior commodity analyst at Futures International in Chicago. “The shipments of nearly 400,000 tonnes are just incredible.”
Argentine farmers are holding about 8.4 million tonnes of soybeans - five times more than a year ago - as the country’s currency falls, making the beans more valuable to hold than the peso, according to Leandro Pierbattisti, an analyst with Argentina’s grains warehousing chamber.
The tight-fisted farmers limited the supplies soy processors in Argentina can crush and then sell in export markets, pushing business instead to the United States.
The large U.S. exports bolstered soymeal futures at the Chicago Board of Trade, which jumped 1.7 percent to $426.00 per short ton and notched the largest gains on Friday in the agriculture futures complex.
Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli