Ideas for Argentine wheat crop converge - a little

The disparate forecasts for the Argentine grains crop showed some signs of convergence, as the harvest neared its final hectares, as the Buenos Aires grains exchange trimmed its estimate, citing dryness in southern areas.

The exchange cut by 250,000 tonnes to 10.1m tonnes its forecast for the wheat crop in the South American country, typically the southern hemisphere's second-ranked exporter of the grain after Australia.

The downgrade still leaves a large gap between the exchange's figure and that of Argentina's farm ministry, at 9m tonnes.

However, the estimates are at least with 98% of the crop harvested, according to the exchange - showing signs of convergence.

The ministry last month raised its estimate from 8.5m tonnes.

 'Practically zero rainfall'

The exchange said that crops in many areas achieved results better than initially expected, including in the south east of Buenos Aires province, where yields reached "isolated peaks" above 9.0 tonnes per hectare.

"In this region, producers made all fertilizer applications needed to maintain high yield potential."

However, in the south west of Buenos Aires and in southern La Pampa, an area comprising some 22% of Argentine wheat area, poor rains hurt crops.

"Rainfall in the months of November and December rains was practically zero, which caused a decrease in the yield due to poor grain filling," the exchange said.

Important exporter

Argentina's wheat fortunes are being closely watched because of the potential impact on the world market.

Even at 10.1m tonnes the harvest would, while above last season's sub-9m-tonne figure, be historically weak, well below the record 18.6m tonnes reached in 2007-08, and offer limited scope for exports.

Indeed, Argentina's government, which has a rich history of intervening in grain markets, reportedly last month failed to approve some 1.6m tonnes in exports, and is said to be meeting on Friday to discuss shipments.

Argentine supplies are particularly important Brazil, a structural importer, whose needs this season have been raised by frost damage to the domestic harvest, and which has been forced to turn to North American offers, rather than to its neighbour, for supplies.

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