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August, 5, 2020

2020/21 Argentina Soybean and Corn Acreage Estimates

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

It is currently very dry in much of Argentina with little prospect for rain any time soon. Should this dryness persist into September, it could discourage corn planting and result in additional soybean acreage. Therefore, the weather in Argentina over the next 1-2 months could alter the acreage estimates detailed below.

2020/21 Argentina Soybean Acreage up 2.2% - The 2020/21 soybean acreage in Argentina is estimated at 18.0 million hectares (44.4 million acres), which would be 0.4 million hectares (0.98 million acres) more than the 17.6 million hectares (43.4 million acres) planted in 2019/20 or an increase of 2.2%. The 2020/21 soybean production in Argentina is estimated at 52.0 million tons or 2.0 million tons more than my current estimate of 50.0 million tons for the 2019/20 growing season or up 4%.

A word of caution - Argentina is a very hard country to estimate because there are multiple acreage and production estimates including: the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange, the Rosario Grain Exchange, the Argentine Government, the USDA, and other private forecasters. Unfortunately, everyone has a different estimate for acreage and production. Therefore, this is my first educated guess at the Argentina acreage and there is a high probability that these estimates will change before it is all said and done.

Factors that could influence the soybean expansion in Argentina include:

  • Soybeans are cheaper to plant than corn, which could be important if credit is limited.
  • Argentina farmers have a risk-off mentality due to the dire condition of the Argentina economy. As a result, soybeans offer less risk compared to corn.
  • It is currently very dry in parts of Argentina and if the dry conditions persist until the early spring plantings begins, some of the intended corn acreage (which is planted first) might be switched to soybeans instead.
  • Soybeans are generally higher yielding in Argentina relative to corn especially if the growing season ends up being dryer than normal.
  • Farmers have been slow in purchasing the inputs needed to plant their 2020/21 corn, so maybe they intend to invest more in their 2020/21 soybean production.

Factors that could limit the soybean expansion in Argentina include:

  • The soybean export tax is 33% and the federal government might increase it further.
  • Currently, the export tax is 33% for soybeans, soybean meal, and soybean oil, but processors are pushing for a reinstatement of the 3% tax differential that had been in place for many years. Under the previous system, soybean meal and soybean oil exports were taxed at 3% less than soybeans and processors used that 3% differential as their margins. It is unclear if it will be reinstated and if it is reinstated, will the soybean taxes increase to achieve the differential.
  • The soybean processing sector is currently in disarray due to tax policies, the economic situation in the country, Covid-19 and the bankruptcy of the largest crusher in Argentina. Crushers is currently running a little more than 50% of capacity.

2020/21 Argentina Corn Acreage down 3.2% - The 2020/21 corn acreage in Argentina is estimated at 6.0 million hectares (14.8 million acres), which is down 0.2 million hectares (0.49 million acres) compared to the 6.2 million hectares (15.3 million acres) planted last year or down 3.2%. The 2020/21 corn production in Argentina is estimated at 48.0 million tons, which is down 1.0 million tons from current estimate of 49.0 million tons for the 2019/20 growing season or down 2.0%.

Factors that could influence the corn acreage in Argentina include:

  • The trend in recent years has been for increasing corn acreage as farmers try to have a more balanced rotation instead of a monocrop of soybeans.
  • Argentine farmers realize that a rotation closer to 50-50 for corn and soybeans is a much better approach than relying heavily only on soybeans.
  • The export tax on corn is 12% compared to a 33% export tax for soybeans. In fact, it is possible the soybean export tax might increase.
  • Argentina and China have agreed on phytosanitary standards for corn exports to China.

Factors that could limit corn expansion in Argentina include:

  • Corn is much more expensive to plant than soybeans and farmers have a risk-off mentality. Farmers have also been slow sellers of their 2019/20 crops so they are not well capitalized.
  • Availability of credit may be limited due to the dire economic situation in the country, which makes it more difficult to finance an expensive crop of corn.
  • Farmers in Argentina have been slow to purchase the inputs needed to plant the 2020/21 corn crop.
  • Dry weather early in the planting season could convince farmers to switch some of their intended corn production to soybeans instead.
  • Corn is more sensitive to dry conditions than soybeans, so if it looks like a La Nina will develop and bring with it dryer than normal weather, farmers may opt for less corn and more soybeans.

Planting Sequence in Argentina

  • Corn is the first crop planted in Argentina starting in September when the weather permits. The corn planting in Argentina is divided into two phases.
  • The early corn is planted during September and October and generally about 45% of the corn is planted during this first phase. Maybe only about 5% of the corn is planted during the month of November. Farmers don't like to plant corn in November because it will pollinate in December when it could be hot and dry.
  • The later corn is planted starting in December and ending about mid-January. About 50% of the corn will be planted in this second phase.
  • Farmers start planting soybeans in October and they finish planting their double crop soybeans in December. Soybean planting is continuous so there is not a split soybean planting season like there is for corn.