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Argentina's farmers are racing to plant more corn now a new farm-friendly government is taking power, increasing the area planted by 10 percent over previous estimates, and making more exports likely from one of the world's biggest suppliers. Mauricio Macri will become president of Argentina, one of the world's biggest corn and soybean suppliers, on December 10 after winning last month's election on a free-markets platform with promises to cut taxes and reduce controls on grains exports.
Farmers now have a six-week window in key growing regions to plant corn before mid-January and they are rushing to buy seeds and fertilisers. Extra output, combined with Macri's promise of a more competitive exchange rate, will likely boost exports. "You can already see farmers changing their planting plans. Over the last week we have seen that they might plant 300,000 to 400,000 hectares more corn than the 2.6 million hectares we previously imagined," said Alfredo Paseyro, executive director of the Argentine Seed Merchants Association (ASA).
Pablo Torello, who manages 2,500 hectares in the bread-basket province of Buenos Aires, said he upped corn plantings to 480 hectares from an originally planned 300 when Macri beat ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli on November 22. "Macri made his farm policies clear during the campaign, so when he won we were ready to invest in corn. We had the money set aside," Torello said. Corn costs about $535 per hectare to grow, 80 percent more than soy, Argentina's main cash crop.
Torello estimates that his neighbours in the northern Buenos Aires municipality of Bragado are increasing corn planting by 10 to 15 percent due to the expected shift in government policy. More than 90 percent of corn planted in Argentina is genetically modified and GMO seeds have seen a sales jump since the November 22 election, as have related agro-chemicals and the weed killers glyphosate and atrazine sold by companies like Monsanto. Agroservicios Pampeanos (ASP), a $300 million per year fertiliser and pesticides company, is already fielding an increase in calls from growers asking about corn-related products, said chief executive Miguel Morley.
"A 10 percent increase is a reasonable estimation, which would mean 300,000 additional hectares before the end of planting in mid-January," he said, based on the volume of calls. This year's planting in the country's main corn belt of northern Buenos Aires province, south-east Cordoba and southern Santa Fe has been completed, but there are six weeks left to sow in secondary corn provinces like Santiago del Estero, Salta and northern Cordoba. Argentina is the world's No 4 corn exporter, No 3 soybean supplier, and a major source of wheat for neighbouring Brazil. Macri's policy team says overall grains output could climb 30 percent to 130 million tonnes by the end of his first term in 2019.

Copyright Reuters, 2016

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