December 22, 2008

Argentina wheat harvest moving on fast on dry weather


Argentina's 2008-09 wheat harvest is progressing rapidly, but crop conditions are very spotty because of drought, the Secretariat said in its weekly crop report Friday (December 19).


In the important wheat growing belt in southern Buenos Aires province near Bahia Blanca, yields are averaging a dismal 0.65 tonnes per hectare with poor grain quality, the Secretariat said.


A late frost and drought through much of the growing season caused a sharp drop in yields in much of the crop.


Farmers had harvested 73 percent of the 2007-08 wheat crop as of December 18, at least 18 percentage points ahead of the harvest pace last season.


On Wednesday, the Secretariat cut its forecast for wheat output by 1.1 million tonnes to 9 million tonnes. That's down sharply from the 16 million tonnes grown last season.


The young corn crop is also suffering from the dry weather, with conditions mixed across the farm belt, according to the Secretariat.


As of December 18, farmers had planted 75 percent of the area seen going to soy, up from 73 percent at this point last year.


Area is seen at a record 17.8 million hectares this season.


Drought earlier in the year saw wheat area fall sharply and the higher profits with soy relative to corn and sunflower seeds are spurring the shift to soy this season.


Conditions of the corn crop also vary widely depending on soil moisture levels in the different regions.


In the Avellaneda district of Santa Fe province "the development of early corn ranges from good to bad, depending on the availability of water," the Secretariat said.


As of December 18, farmers had planted 8 percent of the forecast 3.34 million hectares seen going to corn, down from 87 percent at this point last season, according to the Secretariat.


Farmers have planted 97 percent of the 2.2 million hectares expected to be sown with sunflower seeds this season, in line with the planting pace last year.

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