Russia is looking to buy up to 3 million metric tons (mmt) of corn from Argentina in 2011 to cover a domestic supply short fall caused by the drought that severely reduced 2009-2010 grain production, Argentina's International Trade Secretary told state news agency Telam on Friday.
Opening up Russia's market to the genetically modified corn varieties grown in Argentina must still be negotiated, but if approved, the first shipment is expected in January, Luis Maria Kreckler said from Moscow, where he is leading a trade delegation.
A source in Argentina’s foreign ministry told Reuters News Service that a shipment of 300,000 metric tons of Argentine corn to Russia had already been set for January. It would mark the first export of Argentine corn to Russia since the 1980s.
Russia said earlier on Friday it would import some 3 mmt of feed grain and an Agriculture Ministry spokesman told Reuters the government was in talks with Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the European Union.
USDA currently estimates that Russia will import 1 mmt of corn, 2 mmt of wheat and 600,000 tons of barley in 2010-2011.
Any large Russian purchase of Argentine wheat would reduce competition for U.S. corn in other more traditional export markets.
Argentina’s government is still in talks to open corn exports to China, as well. Those two countries must also work out a sanitary agreement covering Argentina’s genetically modified corn varieties before any corn sales can occur.
Argentina's Agriculture Ministry is set to authorize the export of 5 mmt of new-crop corn, the first permits to be issued for the March crop.
According to the Agriculture Minister Julian Dominguez, Argentina's corn production is set to hit a record 26 million tons in 2010-2011, with exports to reach 18.5 mmt. USDA estimates Argentine production at 25 mmt up from last year’s 22.5-mmt crop and sees exports at 17.5 mmt.
There remains considerable doubt about Argentine corn production, however, due to the La Niña weather event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which has a tendency to mean drier-than-normal weather for Argentina growing areas.
Argentina’s corn plantings are expected to be up significantly from last year due to strong prices, but dry weather has brought planting to a near halt.
Argentine producers had planted 73% of expected corn area as of Nov. 25, but planting advanced less than 1 percentage point from the previous week due to parched soils, the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange said in a weekly crop update.
"Heavier and more widespread rains are needed for late planting to resume. If they don't arrive, sowing will not be possible," the exchange warned.
Argentina’s Rosario Grain Exchange on Friday pegged corn production at 21-22 mmt, down slightly from last year, due to the La Niña event.
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.