Argentina will plant more wheat this season than last year because of farmer-friendly adjustments to the government’s export policy and the bad luck that growers had last season with alternative crops such as barley, a key grain exchange said.
At a time of rising world food demand, the grain-exporting powerhouse can expect 3.9 million hectares to be sown with wheat in the 2013/14 season, up from 3.6 million planted in 2012/13, the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange said in its first wheat area estimate of the year. Planting starts next month.
“Our survey of growers shows a clear improvement in terms of intention to sow wheat,” the exchange said in a statement. “This improvement is due primarily to the poor experience that growers had with alternative crops (mostly barley) last season.”
Figures for the previous season’s wheat harvest in Argentina have yet to be finalized, with the exchange estimating a take of 9.8 million tons and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) putting it at 11 million tons.
Argentina restricts wheat and corn exports to ensure ample, affordable domestic food supplies.
Argentina nonetheless suffers from one of the world’s highest inflation rates, estimated by private economists at about 25% per year. This, along with strict government-imposed currency controls, has slowed investment in the country’s key farm sector.
Although 8.3% higher than Argentina’s 2012/13 wheat planting area, the 3.9 million hectares expected by the exchange for 2013/14 would be 7% under the average planting area registered over the last four years.
Argentine farmers have been less enthusiastic about planting wheat and corn over the past few seasons since the government started placing export curbs on the two grains. Soy, the country’s main agricultural product, is not subject to the curbs.
The government adjusted its wheat policy this year by announcing the entire season’s exportable surplus at once. It used to issue piecemeal export quotas throughout the season, making it hard for growers to know how much wheat to sow at the start of the crop year.
In early March and well before May planting, the government responded to farmers’ complaints by announcing a full season export quota of 5 million tons. Internal wheat demand in Argentina is about 6 million tons.
The retouched policy was “an important factor” in the farmers’ decision to plant more wheat this season, the exchange said.