El Niño has caused flooding, and mudslides that have damaged crops and cut off roads. Storms in northern Buenos Aires, dropped a record total of 35 centimeters (14 inches) of rain, according to the province's agency for emergencies. The Arrecifes River rose to 29 feet, nearly twice its usual level.
Argentine wheat output will likely fall this season after record storms lashed the Pampas grains belt, a region in South America, making it difficult for Argentina to compete in a global export market saturated by bumper harvests in Western Europe and the Black Sea region, Ag Week reported.
A key supplier of wheat to neighboring Brazil and the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, Argentina is one of a handful of key international food suppliers at a time when both global demand and weather-related risks are rising.
Farmers expect a 6% loss in recently-sown wheat, after plantings were reduced in reaction to government export restrictions and a local currency widely considered overvalued.
“We've already gotten a year’s worth of rain and we’re just headed into spring, which is supposed to be the wet season,” said David Hughes, who farms several thousand hectares in the bread-basket province of Buenos Aires.
He usually gets 100 centimeters (39.3 inches) every year. “We passed that for 2015 about a week ago,” Hughes said.
Ernesto Ambrosetti, analyst at the Argentine Rural Society, which represents big growers, said a record 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) fell on some parts of the Pampas region in South America over the last 10 days.
“What's certain is that we will lose around 6% of wheat area to the floods,” Ambrosetti said, not counting yield losses due to fungi that flourish in overly-wet conditions.
The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange expects 3.7 million hectares were planted with wheat this year, versus 4.4 million in the previous season.
Weak production could decrease Argentine exports to Brazil, prompting its largest wheat customer to turn elsewhere. When frost damaged Argentina’s 2013 crop, U.S. exporters stepped in with 4 million tonnes of wheat, the most ever shipped from the U.S. to Brazil.
Storms, droughts and heat waves will cause more frequent food shortages as the global climate changes, British and American experts warned last week, throwing a question mark over top commodity crops corn, soybeans, wheat and rice, Ag Week reported.
Since most of these crops come from a small number of countries such as the U.S., Argentina and China, extreme weather in these regions are expected to have an outsized impact on food supplies.
Global wheat stockpiles are nonetheless seen hitting a record 221.5 million tonnes by the end of the season.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects an Argentine wheat crop of 11.1 million tonnes, down from 12.5 million in 2014-15. Some of Argentina’s restrictive trade policies may change after the Oct. 25 presidential election, which could in turn increase wheat output the following season.