Argentine wheat hopes receive third reassurance
By - Published 09/11/2012

Hopes for Argentina's wheat harvest received their third boost within 24 hours when government officials downplayed crop concerns, following reassurance from US peers and the Buenos Aires grains exchange.

Argentina's farm ministry cautioned that heavy rains had raised the threat of diseases to the country's wheat crop, already doomed to be one of the lowest of in recent years by among the lowest plantings on record.

In Pehuajo, in the major wheat-growing province of Buenos Aires, "the state of the crops is mixed depending on the extent of flooding and disease", Argentina's farm ministry said in a report.

However, the briefing added that "it is still too early to talk about significant yield  losses when crops are just starting to enter the grain-filling stage," when high moisture levels offer some advantage.

Sunflower setback…

The comments came hours after the US Department of Agriculture, in its benchmark monthly Wasde report on world crop supply and demand, kept its estimate for the Argentina wheat harvest at 11.5m tonnes – if flagging a setback to sunflower sowings from downpours.

"Heavy autumn rain, particularly in Buenos Aires province, hampered sunflower planting," the USDA said, cutting its forecast for sowings by 10% to 1.8m hectares and warning that he "cool wet weather has also increased the likelihood of disease".

The department's decision to stick with its wheat harvest forecast also defies advice from its bureau in Buenos Aires, which last week cut its estimate for the crop to 10.8m tonnes, citing "serious flooding" in the province, and the spread of disease encouraged by the humid conditions.

'Aggravated by continuous rains'

On Thursday, the Buenos Aires grains exchange also stood by its forecast for the crop - albeit one, at 10.12m tonnes, well below that of the USDA – saying that the projected yield for this year's crop "exceeds the historical national average".

The exchange conceded that there was, in some central areas, a "strong" outbreak of diseases such as rust, with the fusarium fungus also evident, a situation "aggravated by continuous rains".

And flooding had cost some 240,000 hectares in wheat.

However, in southern Buenos Aires province, wheat remained "in good condition".

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