August 11, 2008

Argentina wheat area seen to fall by 4.55 million hectares

Argentina's 2008-09 wheat planting will decline to 4.55 million hectares from an earlier forecast of 4.8 million hectares, the Agriculture Secretariat said in its weekly crop report Friday (August 8).

The "almost complete" absence of rain in the central-northern fields of the wheat belt has raised alarms for farmers, particularly in the provinces of Cordoba and Santa Fe and in the north of Buenos Aires and Entre Rios, the department said.

The dryness could affect crop yields, it added.

Planting conditions are good in the important wheat areas of southern and western Buenos Aires province, with showers and high humidity benefiting the crop, the Secretariat said.

As of August 8, farmers had planted 92 percent of the hectares seen going to wheat this year, the Secretariat said.

Most of the remaining fields to be planted are in central Buenos Aires and in the south of La Pampa province.

The new forecast for wheat planting is in line with that of the Buenos Aires Cereals Exchange, which on Aug. 1 cut its estimate to 4.55 million hectares from a previous 4.7 million hectares.

The planting of sunseed, which is just getting underway, is concentrated in Santa Fe province and expanding into Chaco. However, dry conditions are slowing planting, which is 2.6 percentage points behind the pace of last year. An estimated 2 percent of the crop was planted by Aug. 8.

A drought in northwestern Argentina has prompted the Secretariat to reduce its estimate of the expansion of planted area by one percentage point to 5 percent as compared with the 2007-08 season.

The Secretariat expects planted area to reach 2.84 million hectares, up from 2.7 million during the previous season.

The 2007-08 corn crop has been almost completely harvested, with 99.8 percent collected as of Aug. 8, the Secretariat said.

Output is forecast at 21 million tonnes, up from last week's estimate of 20.4 million tonnes.


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