July 1, 2008


Exchange disputes Argentina's grain export figures


A report issued by Argentina's government last week, which pointed to increased agricultural exports during the first five months of the year despite farm strike disruptions, contained a number of errors and did not reflect the true effect suffered in exports, the Rosario Grain Exchange said Monday (June 30, 2008).


"All exports ... have been impacted by (the conflict over the sliding-scale export taxes), and the consequences may be greater than reflected given the recent export regulations coming out. This effect will be seen when exports start to decline in the following months," the exchange said.


Last week, a report prepared by the government based on customs data indicated agricultural exports rose sharply on the year from January to May. The report was used in negotiations with farmers and cited by government officials to back up claims that farmers were targeting domestic supplies, not exports, with their blockades.


Farmers launched an on-again, off-again strike in March to protest higher export taxes on soy, the country's leading crop.


The government report said soy exports from January through May totaled 3.8 million tonnes, up 18 percent from the same period a year earlier.


However, official data is only current to April. The animal and food-inspection agency, Senasa, usually releases agricultural export data.


Based on an examination of Senasa figures, exporters would have had to ship 1.88 million tonnes of soy in May, an unprecedented level, to reach the figures cited in the government report. In addition, shipping records show less than a million tonnes being loaded during May, according to the exchange.


"The 18-percent increase cited (by the government) is based on an erroneous export calculation (and) exports actually were up just 10 percent on the year during the period," the exchange said.


The actual increase in exports was due to a shortening of the period allowed for shipping soy after declaring an export sale to 150 days, compared with the 360 days previously allowed by the government, the exchange added. This period was reduced again recently, with all grains having to be shipped within 45 days of an export declaration.


In addition, the vast majority of soy export commitments were made before the conflict kicked off. Exporters had declared 8.6 million tonnes of sales as of March, but have declared just 88,000 new sales since the disruptions began, according to the exchange.


The government also said corn exports during the first five months of the year totaled 7.4 million tonnes, up 9 percent on the year.


But the high level of shipments was also pushed by the shortening of the period in which to ship corn after declaring a sale to 30 days from 360 days, the exchange said. Now exporters are allowed 45 days.


According to the government, wheat exports during the period declined 6 percent to 5.14 million tonnes, while wheat flour exports rose 52 percent to 484,000 tonnes.


However, the exchange said wheat shipments have been seriously affected by the periodic shutting off of exports, which has contributed to decreased new crop planting.


Wheat flour exports gained due to the closed wheat exports and local millers taking advantage of this to sell a product with more added value, the exchange said.


The report from the exchange follows earlier signs that grain exports had been seriously affected by the farm strike.


Two weeks ago, the exchange said exporters shipped US$1.6 billion less in grain over the past three months due to the strike.


Between March 15 and June 8, 281,364 grain trucks made it to the processing and export hub of Rosario, 138,996 fewer than during the same period a year earlier, according to the exchange.


The decreased transport flow prevented more than 4 million tonnes of grains from reaching Rosario, the exchange said.

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