Argentina’s largest grain exchange on Tuesday raised its estimate of that country’s 2009-2010 soybean crop, citing record plantings and improved yield prospects.

The Rosario grain exchange raised its estimate of the country’s 2009-2010 soybean crop to 50.8 million metric tons (mmt) from a previous estimate of 47 mmt.

The exchange’s estimate is still well short of USDA’s current Argentine crop estimate of 53 mmt, but would be a record large crop by more than 4 million tons.

The exchange estimated planted soybean area at 18.7 million hectares and pegged the average yield at 2.75 metric tons/hectare.

Argentina's Agriculture Secretariat and the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange have not yet forecast production this season. The Secretariat pegs planted area at 18.2 million hectares, while the Buenos Aires exchange estimates plantings at 19 million hectares.

"In this campaign the most important factor in the increased sowing area was the reduction in corn planting in the main crop belt," the exchange said in a report.

It said soils were currently much moister than they were a year ago and that weather forecasts for the latter part of the season were also more favorable.

The continued presence of an El Niño weather event in the tropical Pacific Ocean suggests favorable rainfall prospects for both Argentina and Brazil in coming weeks.

Tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures remain warmer than normal, which is typical of an El Niño, and could warm further in the central and then eastern Pacific in coming weeks, according to the Australian government's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Most international computer models surveyed by the Bureau predict further warming of sea surface temperatures in El Niño regions over the southern hemisphere summer, and further warming would see the warmest equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures since the 1998 El Niño, the BOM said in a report released Tuesday.

As of Dec. 17, 75% of Argentina’s soy crop had been planted compared with 77% a year earlier, according to the Agriculture Secretariat.

Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.