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Argentina hikes wheat harvest forecast on rains

Argentina's 2010/11 wheat harvest is seen at 12 million tonnes, up 60 percent from last year as rains boost wheat yields and also spur corn sowings, the Agriculture Ministry said on Wednesday. Argentina is a leading wheat supplier and the latest estimate, a significant jump from the previous official forecast for between 10.0 million and 11.2 million tonnes, should ease lingering doubts about Argentine supplies.

Drought squeezed Argentina's last wheat harvest to 7.5 million tonnes, the smallest in three decades, and drier weather earlier in the current season spooked global markets after No 3 exporter Russia halted exports.

"The rains that fell throughout September and the first days of this month, as well as replenished reserves of groundwater, have benefited the crop development in almost all of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, central-southern Santa Fe, Entre Rios and San Luis," the ministry said in a monthly crop report. Buenos Aires province accounts for about half of Argentina's entire wheat and Cordoba and Santa Fe are also leading producers.

Wednesday's estimate matches the latest forecast issued by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The ministry also said farmers were expected to plant more corn than in the previous record season - up to 4.0 million hectares from the last season's 3.67 million. They have sown 48 percent of the estimated area so far. "Sowing progress up until now has been very satisfactory because there haven't been big problems in terms of climate conditions," the ministry report said.

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