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BUENOS AIRES: Argentina grains exports should value just shy of $30 billion this year, boosted by higher output than a drought-hit 2023 but tempered by lower global prices and an insect plague that has dented corn production.

The $29.3 billion in exports seen for this year is below the recent five-year average, the major Rosario grains exchange said in a report on Friday.

Argentina is a top global exporter of soybeans, corn and wheat, but while the 2023/24 season received a boost from El Nino-powered rains, production is not seen reaching the levels previously forecast. Corn production in particular has been hit by a rare leafhopper insect plague that has knocked an estimated $1.3 billion off the expected 2023/24 corn crop.

The leafhopper insect is a vector of the spiroplasma bacteria and other diseases that damage corn. The exchange currently estimates a corn crop of 50.5 million metric tons, down 11% from a month ago. It also forecasts 50 million metric tons for the 2023/24 soybean crop. “On top of this panorama of lower production is a drop in international prices of Argentina’s principal agricultural export products,” the exchange said on Friday.

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