Farmers in grains powerhouse Argentina have planted a quarter of the area expected to be sown with wheat this season, helped by favourable weather and soil moisture conditions, the Agriculture Ministry said on Friday.
The ministry, as well as the local office of the US Department of Agriculture and the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange, expects 4.0 million hectares (9.9 million acres) to be planted with 2012/13 wheat, down from 4.6 million hectares in the 2011/12 season.
"Planting is actively continuing in Rafaela (a town in central Santa Fe province) favoured by good weather and soil moisture conditions," the ministry said in its weekly crop report. Santa Fe is the third most productive farm province in the country.
Argentine farmers say they are shifting toward other crops in order to skirt government export curbs that they say are hobbling investment in the wheat sector. Soyabeans, for example, are subject to a 35-percent export tax but not government-imposed curbs.
Reforms to the country's export rules have failed to revive interest among wheat growers while worries mount that faltering quality is costing the world's sixth-biggest wheat exporter its competitiveness. Algeria rejected an offer of Argentina wheat in April. Argentina is nearly done with its 2011/12 soya harvest, with most of the fields yet to be collected concentrated in top grains province Buenos Aires. The government expects a crop of 41.5 million tonnes, after extreme weather prompted a series of projection cuts from an original 53 million tonnes.
The Pampas grains belt, one of the world's most important food-supplying regions, was hit by a December-January dry spell followed by flooding in May and June in some parts of Buenos Aires. Rainfall in some areas has been the heaviest in a century, forcing farmers to write off fields where harvesting machines have gotten bogged down in the mud.
"In Lincoln (northern Buenos Aires province) some late-seeded soya fields have not been harvested for lack of firm ground for the harvesting combines," the government report said. As of Thursday, the report said 97 percent of the 18.5 million hectares planted with 2011/12 soya had been collected, marking progress of 3 percentage points over the week but lagging last year's tempo by 1 percentage point.
The government expects soya production of 41.5 million tonnes this season after the six-week dry spell dashed initial hopes of a bumper crop. Argentina is the No 3 soyabean producer and exporter after the United States and Brazil. As of Thursday, farmers had collected 69 percent of their 2011/12 corn, planted on 5 million hectares, the report said, marking progress of 5 percentage points over the week but lagging last year's tempo by 15 percentage points. Argentina's Agriculture Ministry expects 2011/12 corn output of 20.1 million tonnes, far below the record 30 million tonnes foreseen by officials at the start of planting.