ROME, ITALY — Dry weather conditions are reducing the 2012 maize prospects in Argentina and Mexico, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) said in reports on Jan. 24.

Argentina’s maize crop is estimated to be 7% down from the 2011 record level, but still 4% above the average of the last five years.

In Mexico, GIEWS said this season’s production is forecast at 4.9 million tonnes, 25% below the average of the last five years, but still above the poor crop of the same season in 2011, reduced by severe frosts.

Sowing of the 2012 maize crop is virtually completed in Argentina’s main growing provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, La Pampa and Santa Fe.

Dry and hot weather conditions from the second week of December to early January negatively affected developing crops. Early planted crops (September and first half of October), were the most affected as the heat wave hit crops during the flowering period. Rains from the second week of January brought some relief to crops, but were too late to avoid yield reductions.

The area planted is estimated around the good level of last year but lower than expected at the beginning of the season. Assuming regular precipitation in the coming weeks, FAO tentatively forecasts the 2012 maize crop, to be harvested from March, at 21.4 million tonnes.

Early planted sorghum was also affected by dry weather and high temperatures. However, in general, this crop is more resistant to heat than maize and has showed signs of recovery after the precipitation of the past weeks. If good rains continue, an above average output could still be obtained.

Planting operations of soybeans in the main growing areas of Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe are about to be concluded. The planted area is estimated similar to the high levels of the previous year but dry weather has negatively affected yield potential. However, a recovery of the crop could be expected if more rains are received in the next weeks.

Harvesting of the 2011 wheat was completed at the end of the year. The crop was negatively affected by prolonged dry conditions from August to October that reduced yields. Despite a slight increase in the area planted, the output is officially estimated 12% below the bumper harvest in 2010 at 13.4 million tonnes, However, at this level, production remains some 6% above the average of the last five years.

Area planted to 2012 secondary maize crop forecast to decrease sharply due to dry weather

Sowing of the 2012 autumn-winter season maize crop, which represent about 30 percent of the aggregate annual production, is currently under way. Sowing intentions are 14 percent down from last year’s levels, owing to insufficient rainfall and low reservoir levels in states that produce under irrigation, particularly Sinaloa, but also Sonora, Baja California and Tamaulipas.

In Mexico, sowing of the 2012 irrigated autumn-winter wheat crop, which accounts for 90% of the annual production, is also underway. The output is tentatively forecast at 3.8 million tonnes, close to the high level obtained in the same 2010 season.

The 2011 spring-summer crops are currently being harvested. Total production in 2011 (autumn-winter and spring-summer seasons) is forecast at around 20 million tonnes of maize and 6.4 million tonnes of sorghum, 9% below their 2010 levels in both cases. This reduction reflects crop losses and lower yields following heavy frosts in the autumn-winter season and a dry spell and frosts in September during the spring-summer season.

Given the lower cereal production forecast for 2011, import requirements for the 2011-12 marketing season (October/September) are estimated at 15.4 million tonnes, up by 6% on the 2011 levels.