OMAHA (DTN) -- The phrase "big crops get bigger" usually refers to a tendency for USDA harvest volume estimates in a large-crop season to increase from USDA's fall number to the final call on crop size the following January.
But the 2013-14 crop season offers a twist on that phrase. The South America corn crop stands a very good chance of meeting or surpassing projections of its own, and adding further to a world corn supply that's getting bigger in a hurry. After a drought-reduced harvest of 21 million metric tons in the 2011-12 crop year, Argentina rebounded with an estimated 26.5 mmt corn crop in 2012-13. This season's harvest, at 26.0 mmt, is expected to be much closer to last year than two years ago, thanks to rainfall developing in the past 10 days just as the earliest-planted corn moved into the pollination phase.
A major reason for the early optimism about corn prospects in Argentina is the arrival of some beneficial rainfall across much of the country's row-crop belt after the first round of midsummer (Southern Hemisphere) heat. The ability of the rain to materialize is due at least in part to the Pacific Ocean's current neutral or "La Nada" condition (neither El Nino nor La Nina in effect).
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"We've been stuck in neutrality (in the Pacific) for quite a while," said DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino. "Every time it looks different, nothing is realized. Temperatures the last few months have been rising by approximately a tenth of a degree Celsius every couple weeks. And both indications from my data, as well as forecast models, indicate a push toward El Nino during this coming first six months of the year."
Grain market supply-and-demand analysts are taking note. "Argentina's corn condition declined recently due to warmer, drier weather but remains in good condition ahead of the critical stages in January and February," Informa Economics of Memphis, Tenn., noted early this week. "Brazil's weather ... has been generally very favorable so far for the main corn crop."
Improved showers take away the one feature that could be thought of as truly bullish for corn this winter -- the threat of heat and dryness damage to the Argentine Corn Belt. "For the past six weeks, March corn has been able to hold a sideways range, but without help from significant weather problems in South America, the downtrend is likely to continue with increased physical selling in 2014," said DTN Analyst Todd Hultman.
One feature that will bear close attention during much of the rest of the January-through-April timeframe is whether Argentina's corn continues to avoid heat stress. "The Argentina crop is generally one month late, and therefore the March-April weather will be important, as well, for the later-planted corn," Informa commented.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at Bryce.firstname.lastname@example.org
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