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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

16 June 2009

Unfavourable prospects for 2009 cereal production

Dry weather determines very low production of 2009 coarse grains
Harvesting of 2009 maize and sorghum crops is about to be completed and production is early forecast at 12.7 and 2 million tonnes, respectively, between 40 and 30 percent below the good levels of the last two years. Scarce and erratic precipitations and hot temperatures until the end of January coupled with relatively high prices of inputs have delayed planting operations and often prevented farmers to accomplish with their planting intentions. In the case of early planted varieties, February and March rainfall were somehow too late to determine a beneficial effect on yields, because most of the damage caused by the lack of soil moisture during crucial flowering and pollinating phases was already irreversible. Most affected provinces are La Pampa, Entre Ríos, Santa Fe and part of Buenos Aires.

Extended areas with coarse grains not profitable to be harvested
Some 35 per cent of total planted area with maize and sorghum, accounting to almost 1.5 million hectares, is reported to be in poor conditions and it is not profitable to harvest it for grain, so farmers have often decided to use it for pasture. This difficult situation is expected to reduce Argentina’s exportable surplus of maize in marketing year 2009/2010 (March/February) to only 7.5 million tonnes, about 60 per cent of the average volume traded in the last five years.

Alarming situation for 2009 winter wheat
Dry weather conditions and cold temperatures are hampering planting of 2009 winter wheat crop. At the beginning of June only 400 000 hectares have been planted compared to 800 000 hectares in 2008 and 1.3 millions in 2007. Scattered precipitations have recently benefited some producing areas such as central and south eastern Buenos Aires, but more precipitations are needed to fully recharge subsoil moisture levels. In Northern provinces, the lack of timely rainfall prevented farmers to plant long cycle wheat varieties and the higher risk associated to short cycle varieties may induce them to switch to other crops such as barley or rapeseed. The effects of unfavourable weather conditions are coupled to the low profitability of the crop that has been limited by high prices of inputs, low domestic prices and a high export tax. Estimates of planted area with 2009 winter wheat have been gradually downward revised in the last few weeks due to unfavourable weather conditions: now they stand at only 3.7 million hectares, the lowest level in the last 100 years, but may go further down if rainfall does not resume immediately.