Dryness Speeds Argentine Soy Harvest But Poses 'Underestimated' Problem For Exports

Buenos Aires, AR — Argentine soy and corn harvesting is being driven by ideal weather conditions, but the lack of rain that is helping farmers bring in crops is also contributing to the shallowness of the Parana River, which has begun to dent agricultural exports, according to a report by Reuters.

Lack of navigability on the river, which carries about 80% of Argentine grain exports, is “an underestimated problem” for exporters, German Heinzenknecht, a meteorologist at consultancy Applied Climatology, said.

The South American grains powerhouse is the world’s No. 3 corn supplier and top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, used to fatten hogs and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia.

“We expect some rains next week in the eastern farm belt, but nothing that would slow the harvest,” Heizenknecht said.

The Buenos Aires exchange forecasts a 2020/21 soy crop of 43 million tonnes, but that could increase thanks to better than expected yields in Cordoba and Santa Fe provinces, it said.

The exchange forecasts a corn harvest of 46 million tonnes.

“But the situation on the river is very serious and not expected to get better until late in the year," Heinzenknecht said.

Ships are loading 5,500-7,000 tonnes less due to low water levels, Guillermo Wade, head of the CAPyM Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities said.

The level of the Parana at the export hub of Rosario, home to some of the biggest soy-crushing plants in the world, was a scant 1 meter (40 inches) on May 6, according to the Coast Guard.

Between 1996 and 2020, the median depth of the river at Rosario was 3.58 meters at this time of year.

The measurement is based on a scale used by ship captains that does not reflect the actual depth of the waterway.

Indeed, the Parana is usually dredged to about 34 feet (10 m) at Rosario, although Wade said the current lack of water is decreasing that depth by two to three feet.

The main driver of shallowness is dry weather in Brazil, where the waterway starts.

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