ARGENTINA (9 February)
Harvesting of the 2004 wheat crop has been recently completed and production is officially early estimated at 16 million tonnes, higher than last five years average of about 14.8 million tonnes. This reflects the 5 percent increase in area planted and positive effects of favourable weather conditions on yields. Planting of 2005 maize crop has been completed at the beginning of January and planted area is estimated at 2.5 million hectares, with an increase of about 9 percent compared to 2004. Dry weather is affecting maize crop in southwest Buenos Aires and north Cordoba, where some damaged areas have already been utilized for animal feed. If favourable weather conditions resume, 2005 maize crop production is expected to be between 17 and 18 million tonnes, just below the record output obtained in 1998. Harvesting of 2005 paddy crop has started in the main producing provinces of Corrientes and Entre Rios. The crop is reported in general good conditions and early forecast point to a production of about 0.8 million tonnes.