July 13, 2012 / 10:51 PM / 7 years ago

Argentine wheat sowing slowed by cold, dry weather

* CBOT wheat prices rise for four straight weeks
    * Adverse global crop weather fans supply worries
    * Argentine growers shy from wheat to avoid export curbs

    By Hugh Bronstein
    BUENOS AIRES, July 13 (Reuters) - Dry, cold weather slowed
Argentine wheat planting last week as farmers struggled to
penetrate their frost-covered fields, the government said on
Friday, further complicating a season marked by low output
expectations.
    Argentina is the world's No. 6 wheat exporter and principal
supplier to neighboring Brazil. But plantings are set to fall 17
percent versus the previous crop year to 3.82 million hectares.
    Argentine farmers are shifting to growing barley to avoid
export curbs that the government puts on wheat. They say the
curbs, meant to ensure ample domestic food supplies, hurt
profits by reducing competition among exporters.
    "The lack of rain over the last seven days was aggravated by
low temperatures and frost throughout Buenos Aires province,"
the Agriculture Ministry said in its weekly crop report.
    Buenos Aires accounts for more than half of Argentina's
total wheat output. In the district of Bragado, in the northern
part of the province, "frosts have delayed the advance in the
planting of winter wheat," the report said.
    Chicago Board of Trade wheat prices have risen for four
straight weeks, up 38.1 percent in that period, as adverse crop
weather in major producers such as the United States and
Australia fans supply worries.  
    The USDA forecasts Argentina's wheat production in the
2012/13 crop year at 12.0 million tonnes, down from 14.5 million
tonnes the year before. 
    The farm sector is a key source of revenue as Argentina's
economic growth slows under the weight of Europe's debt crisis.
    But the United Nations expects global food demand to double
by 2050 as world population hits 9 billion. Argentina, which
boasts a fertile Pampas grains belt bigger than the size of
France, will be key to feeding an increasingly hungry world.
    
 
     
    Argentina, the world No. 3 soybean exporter, suffered a
six-week drought in the December-January dog days of the
Southern Hemisphere summer. The heat wave struck just as 2011/12
soy and corn plants were in their most delicate stage of
flowering.
    The dry spell melted original expectations of a bumper crop
and heavy May rains swamped some fields in Buenos Aires
province, bogging down harvesting combines and forcing farmers
to leave their late-seeded soy to rot.
    Collection has been completed in the Bolivar district of
Buenos Aires and only 1 percent is left to be harvested around
the town of General Viamonte, "where yields have generally come
in under expectations," the government report said.
    "In the district of Pehuajo there is excessive moisture," it
said. "The harvest will not be able to advance there."
    Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures rose on Friday as
heat and drought continued to eat away at U.S. crop prospects. 
    Argentina is also the world's No. 2 corn exporter and the
government estimates this season's production at 20.1 million
tonnes after the drought dashed early expectations of a 2011/12
crop well over the 23 million tonnes harvested in 2010/11. 
          

 (Additional reporting By Maximilian Heath; editing by Jim
Marshall)
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