Damage to Argentina soy, corn yields worsens as drought lingers

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s parched corn- and soy-growing areas
will remain dry in the days ahead, forecasters said on Wednesday as
farmers calculated yield losses caused by a three-month-long drought
that was expected to get worse before it gets better.

Yield damage to early planted soy and corn in the key Pampas farm belt
has already been caused by the hot, dry weather with growers hoping that
February rains will relieve later-planted fields. Argentina is the
world’s No. 3 exporter of both crops and the drought has put upward

pressure on global prices.

“The situation is difficult because what we see over the three or four
days ahead is rain concentrated in the northern part of the country with
almost nothing for the main farm belt,” said German Heinzenknecht,
weather specialist with the Applied Climatology consultancy.

“This will basically continue during the first 10 days of the month,
with some scattered showers in the Pampas offering little moisture,” he
said. “There will be an improvement in the second half of February, but
considering the current moisture deficit, the improvement will not be
sufficient in most areas.”

An Agriculture Ministry official told Reuters on Tuesday that the water
deficit on the Pampas was critical.

“If we do not get rain of 60 millimeters or more over the next 10 days,
there will be irreversible damage to yields of corn planted late in the
season,” said Fernando Meoli, a farmer in the area of 9 de Julio, Buenos
Aires province, located in the southern part of the central Pampas belt.

“The dryness has already done irreversible damage to early-planted
crops,” Meoli added.

Forecasts on Wednesday were starting to trend wetter after Feb. 4, with
temperatures trending cooler during the same period, said Isaac Hankes,
a weather research analyst at Thomson Reuters’ Lanworth commodities and
weather forecaster.

“Uncertainty is high yet about the timing of higher rainfall arriving,
but the odds are better than not that conditions will begin to notably
improve within 7-10 days,” Hankes said.

“Long-range indications are in agreement with an improved outlook for
mid-to-late February as well,” he added.

Argentine farmers are expected to plant 18 million hectares of soy this
season and 5.4 million hectares of commercial use corn, according to the
Buenos Aires Grains Exchange.

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