BUENOS AIRIES, ARGENTINA — Argentina is forecast to harvest a record wheat crop in 2020-21 at 20.2 million tonnes, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA said despite a high level of uncertainty given the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic and volatility in world markets, Argentine farmers are projected to expand wheat area to 6.53 million hectares, a 2% increase over the previous year. If realized it will be the largest planted area in 13 years.

The USDA noted that the last four wheat seasons in Argentina produced good returns, with average yields above 3 tonnes per hectare.

“With adequate soil moisture before planting begins in May, and an abundance of quality seed, farmers will have every reason to expand planting area, even into barley area, which is projected to have lower returns than wheat,” the USDA said. “Additional aspects supporting wheat area expansion drive from its growing benefit in crop rotation with soybeans for weed and soil erosion control and its December harvest timing, which provides needed cash as farmers plant next season’s summer crops.”

The USDA pegs 2020-21 wheat exports at 13.4 million tonnes, which would be the second largest volume in history.

If world demand is strong, exports could be somewhat larger as the USDA forecasts a rebuilding of stocks after a 2019-20 season that is expected to end with relatively tight volume.

“Brazil will be the leading export destination, with roughly 50% of total exports (plus wheat flour), followed by Southeast Asian, North African and South American countries,” the USDA said.

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