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Drought poses risk to corn, soybeans in Argentina

From Guillermo Fontana, CNN
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed January 11, 2012
A combine harvests soybeans in a field in the locality of Perez Millan, Argentina. Crops could be damaged by ongoing drought.
A combine harvests soybeans in a field in the locality of Perez Millan, Argentina. Crops could be damaged by ongoing drought.
  • NEW: CNN meteorologist says drought has been worsened by an ongoing heat wave
  • La Nina dry spell worries agricultural producers
  • Corn and soybeans are important revenue makers in Argentina
  • Agriculture minister calls for calm until situation becomes clearer

(CNN) -- Rain in Argentina on Tuesday brought some relief to the drought-stricken central part of the country, but concerns remained.

The persistent dry spell, blamed on La NiƱa, has not only worried agricultural producers, but could affect tax revenues, officials say.

Two of the crops most affected by the drought, corn and soybeans, are important revenue-makers for the government through taxes, said Carlos Casamiquela, director of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology.

If the soybean crops are damaged as much as some forecasts predict and international prices rise, the revenue the government can pull in would be affected, he said.

The minister of agriculture, Norberto Yahuar, asked for calm until a clearer picture emerges. Government aid would be available to those affected by the drought, he said.

Yahuar called a meeting of the country's agricultural emergency commission on Thursday to evaluate the situation, he said. The true amount and cost of the damages caused by the weather likely will not be known until mid-February, he said.

Cordoba, Sante Fe, and areas west of Buenos Aires only received about 20% of normal precipitation in December, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

The drought has been worsened by an ongoing heat wave, he said.

Temperatures in Buenos Aires have been above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) for the past 15 days, Ward said. The average high temperature there is 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).

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