Argentina has lost half of its seasonal soybean harvest in its main production area – the rich and normally humid 'pampa humeda' in the centre of the country – due to drought, the Rosario Stock Exchange said Monday.
Three successive years of drought have raised fears in Argentina that this year's harvest, particularly of soybeans, will be significantly reduced, striking a blow to the South American country's exports and its domestic supplies.
Argentina is the world's largest producer of soybean oil and flour.
A new report by the institute that tracks drought said that 54 percent of the country was suffering from some lack of moisture, with 14 percent hit by severe drought and nine percent by extreme or exceptional drought.
The central regions of Córdoba, Buenos Aires and Santa Fe have been worst affected.
Authorities were expecting a harvest of 19.7 million tons of soybeans in the country's fertile central plains, but for now, "10.7 million tons are expected, and that number is falling every week," the Rosario Stock Exchange said in a statement.
"While it was known that it would be a difficult season due to drought, what has been seen has surpassed the producers' worst nightmares," it said.
Warning that “economic losses will be very large,” the exchange said, sounding the alarm that "there may be producers who do not harvest anything this year.”
And grain exports, which were worth US$43 billion in 2021-22, "should drop by 21 percent in the best-case scenario and 33 percent in the worst," the Rosario Grain Exchange said.
Daniel Costamagna, production minister for the Santa Fe Province government, said that "at least 3,000 head of cattle" have died due to drought, in a region the size of England.
Argentina's total soybean harvest was predicted at 48 million tons for the coming season but is now expected to yield 35.5 million to 41 million tons.
Economy Minister Sergio Massa tried over the weekend to play down fears of ruined harvests, insisting that there would be enough rain over the next week "to yield a good harvest for the year."
He added that the 14.7 million tons of wheat just harvested was "less than what would have been a good yield but not the catastrophe we feared," after experts predicted the drought would limit Argentina to just 10 million tons.
He admitted, however, that "there could be producers who harvest nothing" this year, adding, "The economic losses will be substantial."
Argentina is one of the world's largest exporters of soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil. It is also a major supplier of maize, wheat and sunflower oils.