(New throughout, updates prices, adds comments; changes byline, dateline, previous HAMBURG)
By Michael Hirtzer
CHICAGO, March 13 (Reuters) - U.S. corn futures climbed to a seven-month high on Tuesday, buoyed by robust export demand amid drought conditions in No. 3 global shipper Argentina, traders said.
Soybeans also rose as rains forecast this week in Argentina were likely to provide only limited relief for soy and corn plants damaged by months of dry growing conditions.
Chicago Board of Trade May corn was up 1 cent at $3.91-3/4 per bushel at 12:45 p.m. CDT (1745 GMT), off their earlier peak of $3.95-1/4.
CBOT May soybeans were up 5 cents at $10.46, recovering from a three-week low reached on Monday.
“The debate is now about just how much the Argentine soybean crop will be reduced by drought. Soybean pods are still filling so there remains a lot of potential for damage if the dryness continues,” said Charles Clack, agricultural commodity analyst at Rabobank.
Due in part to expectations of a smaller Argentine corn harvest, world corn buyers were purchasing most of their near-term needs from the United States.
South Korean importers bought over 1 million tonnes of corn in the past week, much of it from the United States, European traders said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture separately announced a sale of 210,000 tonnes to South Korea of corn that could be U.S. grain or shipped from another country.
Wheat prices turned lower at midday. The latest weather models showed slightly higher chances for rains in the parched southern U.S. Plains wheat belt, traders said.
Benchmark CBOT May wheat was down 4-3/4 cents, or 1 percent, at $4.86 per bushel and K.C. May wheat was off 3-1/4 cents to $5.19.
“Everything is looking kind of toppy today ... that was a nasty reversal in wheat,” said Zaner Group analyst Ted Seifried.
Wheat earlier rose after USDA late on Monday rated 12 percent of the winter wheat crop in the Kansas producing region as good to excellent condition, down from 13 percent a week earlier.
The USDA rated 53 percent of the Kansas crop as poor to very poor, up from 50 percent the previous week.
“There is concern that time is starting to run out for parts of U.S. wheat as we are coming closer to the point in the spring when the crop will move out of winter dormancy and will need moisture, otherwise yields could be hit,” Clack said. (Additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Colin Packham in Sydney Editing by James Dalgleish)