Argentina is on track to harvest more wheat this season 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.
Argentina should produce more than the 8.2 million tons 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.
The USDA sees a 2013/14 Argentine wheat crop of 12 million tons, up from 10 million tons 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 neighbour Brazil, also need Argentina's wheat as global demand for grain is on the rise.
US wheat exports are already up 40% 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.
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.
While the Argentine harvest should be healthy, much wheat will be needed domestically after the government based last season's wheat export permits on overly-optimistic crop estimates, leaving little in the country to be milled into bread and driving up the price of basic food staples.
As we progress into spring, it is unlikely that we will get temperatures as low as they were over recent days. It is possible, but not likely, said Liliana Nunez, chief agro-meteorologist at the government's SMN weather institute.
SMN's forecast through Saturday shows minimum lows of 10 degrees above zero, Nunez said.
The agriculture ministry has cut its 2013/14 wheat planting area estimate to 3.4 million hectares from a previous forecast of 3.9 million hectares, citing dry soils left by a rainless August and early September.
In the previous season, growers planted 3.16 million hectares with wheat, yielding a total of 8.2 million tonnes, according to Argentine government data.