January 10, 2013 / 9:38 PM / 5 years ago

Argentine floods recede, farmers move fast to plant soy

* Price-shocked consumers anxious for Argentine supply
    * Chicago soy futures up 2.4 percent this week alone
    * Soy planting advances 5.9 points over last 7 days
    * Some early-planted soy, corn fields could use more rain

    By Hugh Bronstein
    BUENOS AIRES, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Argentine soy planting
advanced quickly in the last week to cover more than 90 percent
of the targeted area, easing fears of a crop shortfall that
could keep world food prices high, a key grains exchange said on
Thursday.
    An unusually wet start to the 2012/13 crop year delayed
sowing in Argentina, the world's No. 3 soybean exporter and top
supplier of soyoil and soymeal, an animal feed.
    But the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said recent sunny
weather firmed topsoils enough to finally allow farmers to drive
heavy seeding machines into fields that had until recently been
turned to mush by a series of violent rainstorms.
    With world food demand growing, consumers are counting on
Argentina and neighboring Brazil to help make up for poor
harvests in fellow breadbaskets Russia and the United States.
    Food prices will remain high in 2013 and low stocks pose the
risk of sharp price increases if crops fail, according to the
United Nations. 
    Chicago soy futures are up 2.4 percent this week alone
and 16 percent over the past year.
    Further price shocks could put basic staples out of reach in
 poor countries while making it more difficult for crisis-hit
developed economies to spur growth by cutting interest rates.
    The exchange said 90.8 percent of the 19.7 million hectares
estimated for soy this season had been seeded, marking progress
of 5.9 percentage points during the week and outpacing last
season's planting tempo by 5.2 points.    
    "Farmers in western Buenos Aires province were able to take
advantage of this rain-free period and plant more late-seeded
fields, including low-lying areas that had until recently been
waterlogged," the exchange's report said.
   
    Last season's soybean take was 40.1 million tonnes after dry
weather took a toll on yields. The next harvest will come in 
March and is projected by the government at 55 million tonnes or
higher, depending on the weather. 
    Farmers, worried about diseases that could strike soy plants
in areas that remain waterlogged, are keeping a sharp eye out
for fungal outbreaks such as Asian soy rust and frog-eye leaf
spot that thrive in soggy conditions. 
    "Some areas that still cannot be planted with soy will be
seeded with corn," the exchange said. "Growers are looking for
alternatives to make sure fields are productive."
    The weekly crop report said 88.5 percent of the 3.4 million
hectares projected for 2012/13 commercial use corn had been
planted by Thursday, marking progress of 6.5 points during the
week and outpacing the previous season's seeding tempo by 3.9
points.
    It was the first time the exchange recorded a substantial
advance in 2012/13 corn and soy plantings compared with the
2011/12 season. But the sunshine that has helped advance sowing
has also left some areas panting for water.
    "Corn in the northern and southern central farm belt as well
as north-central Cordoba province and central-east Entre Rios is
 already in its advanced flowering stages. These areas need
water in order to achieve high yields," the report said.
    Soybeans in these parts of Argentina could also benefit from
fresh showers, it added.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts an
Argentina soy crop of 55 million tonnes this season and a corn
harvest of 27.5 million tonnes.
        

 (Reporting By Hugh Bronstein)

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