Weather hampers sowing in Argentina

Christmas rainstorms in Argentina further delayed soy and corn planting, keeping markets guessing about whether the grains powerhouse can produce enough this season to help bring high-flying global food prices down to earth.

The South American country is the world’s No. 2 corn exporter after the United States and its No. 1 soyoil and soymeal supplier. But sowing in the central Pampas farm belt lags last season’s tempo by about 20 percentage points, said Tomas Parenti, an agronomist with the Rosario grains exchange.

Up to 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) of rain fell late on Monday and early Tuesday, forcing some growers once again to park their seeding machines lest they sink in the mud.

Any more harsh rains at this point — following an unusual August-October wet spell that turned prime Argentine farmland into unplantable mush — will add to the problem, Parenti said.

“There is excessive moisture in low-lying areas throughout the central farm belt,” he said, referring to an area including parts of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Cordoba provinces.

Benchmark Chicago soy futures are up 20 percent over the last 12 months, with corn up 9 percent and wheat 22 percent.

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