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Likely La Nina return ahead stokes farmer worries in Argentina

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The high probability of a strong La Nina arriving by October has put grains farmers on alert in Argentina, where the climate phenomenon usually brings dry weather with lower rainfall, the Rosario grains exchange said on Wednesday.

Argentina is one of the world's main grains exporters and dry conditions towards the end of the year would affect the development of part of the wheat crop and the planting of corn and soybeans in the next 2024/25 season.

"An analysis carried out with data from international organizations on the Pacific shows a clear trend: the 77% possibility of a 'La Nina' event for the month of October," the exchange said in a report. "The information is worrying."

Argentina, where the 2023/24 campaign is currently under way, has only recently emerged from a string of three straight years of La Nina, which hit particularly hard the 2022/23 harvest, halving production of key soy, corn and wheat crops.

The exchange added that forecasts pointed to a strong version of the climate phenomenon.

"The level of cooling that is being projected has rarely been seen in the last 25 years," it said, referring to an acceleration of equatorial trade winds associated with La Nina that cause a cooling of the Pacific at the Equator.

"To find a similar cooling we must go back to the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008," the exchange added. In the 2008/09 campaign, Argentina suffered a severe drought whose losses were similar to those seen last year.

Soy and corn in Argentina are currently in growth stages, having benefited from abundant rains as a result of the current El Nino phenomenon, the reverse of La Nina. The Rosario exchange estimates the 2023/24 soybean harvest at 49.5 million tons and the corn crop at 57 million tons.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Nick Zieminski)