BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — Heavy rains in recent days in key agricultural areas have buoyed the outlook for Argentina’s 2023-24 wheat crop, even as the much-needed precipitation slows the soybean and corn harvest of the drought-stricken nation, Reuters reported, citing the Buenos Aires grains exchange.

The rainfall arrives at a critical time as Argentina’s farmers start planting wheat in the coming days. The total crop is estimated at 18 million tonnes, up from the 12.4 million tonnes harvested in the previous drought-impacted season.

Argentina is the world’s leading exporter of processed soybeans as well as a major corn and wheat supplier, but its production of grains has been hurt by severe drought and other damaging weather events, causing major losses both for farmers and the cash-strapped government.

“The arrival of rains improves the prospects for the wheat and barley crops,” the exchange said in its weekly crop report.

Argentina's agricultural core, including farmland in northern Buenos Aires province, southern Santa Fe and southeast Cordoba, received up to 75 millimeters (3 inches) of rainfall in the last 24 hours, according to national meteorological service SMN. The grains exchange is expecting a further 10 to 25 millimeters of rain in the same region in the coming days.

However, the recent rainfall also has caused delays in the harvesting of soybeans in the current 2022-23 harvesting season, estimated at just 21 million tonnes. Soybean farmers have reaped 78% of the planted area so far. In the previous 2021-22 season, the soybean harvest totaled 43.3 million tonnes.

For the 2022-23 corn harvest, farmers have harvested nearly 27% of the planted area, with production estimated at 36 million tonnes. The country’s corn crop reached 52 million tonnes in the previous season.