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Argentine soy, corn to be helped by rains: forecaster

BUENOS AIRES--Corn and soy planting in the eastern Argentine province of Entre Rios will be helped by light rains this week while the country's key farm area to the south starts getting the sunshine needed to recover from recent flooding, a forecaster said on Tuesday.

The wet start to Argentina's spring planting season has raised hopes for big harvests after dry crop weather in the United States, Russia and Australia sapped food stocks and squeezed global grains prices higher.

The South American country is a top exporter of corn, soybeans and derivatives such as soyoil, used to make biofuels, and meal, used as cattle feed as far away as China, whose fast-expanding middle class is acquiring a taste for beef steak.

“We are going to see a lot of rainfall — coming to 50 millimeters in some areas — in Entre Rios, Corrientes and parts of Chaco and Misiones provinces,” said Jose Luis Aiello, head of the Applied Climatology Consultancy in Buenos Aires province.

Entre Rios is part of the Pampas grains belt. Just south of the province is the country's key bread basket region of Buenos Aires, where little rain is expected over the next five days.

“This is good news because Buenos Aires has had an excess of water,” Aiello said, adding moderate rains should fall throughout Argentina next week.

Farmers are expected to sow a record 19.7 million hectares (48.7 million acres) with soybeans in the 2012/13 crop year, up 4.5 percent from the 2011/12 season.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts Argentine soy production in the upcoming season at 55 million metric tons, rising from 41 million metric tons in 2011/12.

The flow of grains from the country is of interest to exporters such as Bunge Ltd and Noble Group Ltd., which operate gigantic terminals along the Parana River, leading to the shipping lanes of the South Atlantic.

Chicago corn futures are up 14 percent so far this year, while wheat has risen 31 percent and soybeans 29 percent.

More than 17 percent of Argentina's 2012/13 corn is already in the ground, according to the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange, and farmers start planting soy this month.

Grain markets have meanwhile been shaken by the worst U.S. drought in more than 50 years, which has parched crops in the world's biggest corn producer. With global stocks sliding lower, attention is fixed on No. 2 corn exporter Argentina.

“The weather has complicated things in central Buenos Aires,” said Martin Fraguio, executive director of Argentine corn industry chamber Maizar. “Some farms were flooded and still have a high water table that inhibits planting.”

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In this April 10 file photo, soy plants are seen in a field in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Corn and soy planting in the eastern Argentine province of Entre Rios will be helped by light rains this week while the country's key farm area to the south starts getting the sunshine needed to recover from recent flooding, a forecaster said, Tuesday, Oct. 9.(AFP)

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