Rains help Argentine corn sowing as farmers grumble about export policy

10/14/2021 | 04:30pm

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Rains in central Argentina have helped farmers plant 2021/22 corn with 23.2% of expected area sown so far, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said on Thursday, while growers wrestle with a new export policy that they say could force them to plant less.

The key corn-growing provinces of San Luis and Cordoba are enjoying good ground moisture, the exchange said in its weekly report. Argentina is the world's second biggest corn exporter, after the United States.

Corn exports remain "open" despite a policy announced this week that prioritizes already-harvested crops over forward sales of the upcoming crop, the agriculture ministry said on Tuesday.

Of the 55 million tonnes of corn expected to be harvested this season, a record 38.5 million have been sold as growers rush to lock in high international prices while farm costs are pushed up by high inflation.

Farmers called the new policy an unnecessary intervention in the market. They say it is aimed at slowing domestic food price increases ahead of the November congressional election, after the ruling Peronists got thumped in last month's primary.

Farm groups have said the policy will put downward pressure on corn sowing this season. But Esteban Copati, head analyst at the Buenos Aires exchange, said many growers had already made their 2021/22 planting decisions.

"It's a bit late for a change of mind now," he said.

Inflation is running at 52.5% per year in Argentina. Consumer prices jumped 3.5% in September alone.

Meanwhile, rains that fell this month improved moisture reserves in planted areas, the exchange said. "And they have replenished surface moisture in areas to be planted with corn in Cordoba, Santa Fe and Entre Ríos provinces," it added.

In northern and southern parts of Argentina's main farm belt, early-season corn planting is in its final stretch.

"Toward the provinces of Cordoba and San Luis, last week's rains have replenished water supplies, allowing for continued planting," it added. "In central-north Santa Fe province, sowing exceeds 32% of projected area." (Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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