BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — Farmers in Argentina are shifting out of cereal crops into soybeans, which require less fertilizer amid rising prices, and will plant 17 million hectares for 51 million tonnes of soybean production in marketing year 2022-23, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

The USDA Post projects soybean planted acreage will be up 650,000 hectares, or 4%, from its adjusted estimate for 2021-22. Total production is expected to be up 24% from 2021-22’s 41 million tonnes crop, which has been hit hard by drought. 

“While this forecast (for 2022-23) assumes a return to normal weather, some analysts are predicting a possible third year of La Niña, a weather pattern that traditionally leads to drier growing conditions in Argentina,” the USDA said. “The increase in planted area will largely come at the expense of corn acreage, which is expected to fall in response to high fertilizer costs and the need for crop rotation in some places.”

The 2022-23 crush is expected to reach 41.5 million tonnes, up 6.7% from the USDA’s revised 2021-22 forecast, as a recovery in domestic production and imports of soybeans improve crush volume. The 2021-222 crush has been lowered to 38.9 million tonnes due to limited supplies resulting from drought that affected production in both Argentina and Paraguay. 

“Argentine soybeans have seen average protein levels decline steadily in recent years, and crushers will find it particularly challenging in the coming year to meet protein requirements in meal due to the significant reduction in imports of higher protein soybeans from Paraguay,” the USDA said.

The USDA projects 2022-23 exports of whole soybeans at 6.5 million tonnes, up 136% from projected a 2021-22 level of 2.75 million tonnes. Soy meal exports in 2022-23 are projected up at 27.5 million tonnes, after falling to 26 million tonnes in 2021-22, due to a smaller expected crush. Soy oil exports for 2022-23 are projected at 5.9 million tonnes, up slightly from revised 2021-22 projections of 5.7 million tonnes.

The 2022-23 sunflower seed planted acreage is set to increase 17.6% to 2 million hectares, with total production estimated at 4 million tonnes in response to high prices and worldwide constraints caused by the war in Ukraine, which had been the world’s largest supplier.

“Argentine sunflower seed oil exporters are reportedly fielding unprecedented call volumes from new customers seeking to replace Black Sea sunflower seed oil,” the USDA said.