Argentina seen harvesting more wheat this year despite frost
Argentina is on track to harvest more wheat this season than last as greater acreage and coming warm weather should offset any yield loss caused by recent frosts that hit in the last days of the Southern Hemisphere winter.
The grain powerhouse should produce more than the 8.2 million tonnes it reported last season. Harvesting starts in November and forecasts call for warm weather after the wheat belt got blasted by Antarctic air the past few days.
"There have been frosts, but not enough to significantly damage yields. We can come back from this," said Ruben Sgalippa, who owns a farm in the town of Carlos Casares, Buenos Aires province. Other growers around the Pampas grains belt echoed Sgalippa's take on the situation.
The USDA sees a 2013/14 Argentine wheat crop of 12 million tonnes, up from 10 million tonnes the previous season. Planting intentions increased this year thanks to a local price surge caused by high early-season exports.
A big crop is needed in Argentina after last year's smaller harvest tightened supplies and drove up local bread prices. World buyers, including neighbor Brazil, also need Argentina's wheat as global demand for grain is on the rise.
U.S. wheat exports are already up 40 percent this year versus 2012 as buyers look to America for supplies needed to compensate for a poor Chinese crop and possible low yields in Argentina, where growers strive to avoid planting wheat in order to skirt onerous export curbs imposed by the government.
"The acreage planted this year is larger than last year, and the crop looks better, although we have had drought in some areas, and many frosts," said David Hughes, who manages 7,000 hectares of farmland in northern Buenos Aires province.
"All considered, total production should be greater than last year," he added.
Another cold snap is forecast for Pampas grains belt this coming weekend, but several weather experts said it will not be as severe as the four-day cold spell that ended on Tuesday.
"We are getting more light each day as we get into spring. This will provide a floor for temperatures in the wheat belt," said Anthony Deane, head of consultancy Weather-Wise Argentina.
"There is a cold front moving in. But temperatures, generally, will not be as low as they were last weekend," he said. "This cold snap won't be as extreme as the previous one."
Wheat Crop at Vulnerable Stage
Late-planted Argentine wheat is at the height of its weather-sensitive flowering period as spring gets underway. Frosts this week threatened to hurt yields and pile more pressure on Brazil, the country's top wheat client, to look for alternative sources.