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Sunny June weather speeding up Argentine soy harvest

BUENOS AIRES - Argentine soy harvesting should accelerate next month thanks to predicted sunny weather, but it will arrive too late to save the crop in areas still waterlogged after April floods.

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BUENOS AIRES - Argentine soy harvesting should accelerate next month thanks to predicted sunny weather, but it will arrive too late to save the crop in areas still waterlogged after April floods.

Several million metric tons of soybeans have been left to rot, with growers' 30-metric ton harvesters parked along washed-out roads. The losses in the world's top exporter of soymeal livestock feed and the No. 3 supplier of beans have pushed international prices higher.

Crop estimates are down to between 52 million and 56.5 million metric tons from about 60 million before parts of the Pampas grains belt were lashed by record storms in early April. The loss in tonnage may stop there if the weather improves as forecasted. Crop quality losses will take longer to calculate.

"It will be mostly sunny in the main farm belt in June, which will be good for harvesting," said Anthony Deane, head of the Weather Wise Argentina consultancy.

"It's too late for the southern parts of Entre Rios, Santa Fe and Cordoba provinces. The soybeans that can still be gotten out of those areas will be of poor quality," he said.

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Chicago Board of Trade soymeal futures have surged nearly 50 percent since the end of March as concern about the Argentine floods mounted. With more than 70 percent of the crop collected, Argentine growers are expected to finish harvesting in June.

July soymeal last week hit a contract high at $419.80 per short ton, the highest spot price since September 2014. Prices have since cooled slightly, with the spot contract trading on Tuesday near $400. Front-month soybean futures were trading near $270 at the end of March.

The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange has cut its 2015/16 soy crop estimate to 56 million metric tons with the Rosario exchange forecasting 55 million.

"The final figure will probably be around 55.6 million," said Ernesto Ambrosetti, chief economist at the Argentine Rural Society, which represents some of the country's biggest farms.

"The problem will be lack of working capital for wheat planting, which starts in earnest in a couple of months," Ambrosetti said.

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