(Adds comment from grains exchange)
By Maximilian Heath
BUENOS AIRES, June 19 (Reuters) - Heavy storms that have hit eastern Argentina over the past few days will cause delays in planting of next season’s wheat crop, but they could also help farmers grow more of the grain thanks to replenished water reserves, weather experts said.
Argentina, one of the world’s major grain exporters, has been benefiting recently from adverse weather hitting U.S. wheat crops, with the local exchange estimating record wheat production in the 2019/20 season.
The intense rains, which affected the provinces of Buenos Aires - the country’s main wheat district - and Entre Ríos, reached to levels as high as 150 millimeters (6 inches) in some areas over the weekend period and on Monday.
“There are areas in Entre Ríos and Buenos Aires that were already doing planting work. That will now be delayed,” said Germán Heinzenknecht, meteorologist at the Buenos Aires-based Applied Climatology Consultancy.
Buenos Aires and Entre Ríos should make up around 45% of the 6.48 million hectares Argentina’s government estimates will be sown with wheat in the 2019/20 cycle. Official data show 31% of the country’s wheat planting has already been done.
But the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange (BCBA) said the rains might also allow farmers to plant wheat on more land than before.
“In the south the rains have improved the water reserves and, if good climate conditions hold in the rest of the planting window, it could result in an increase of planting expectations,” the BCBA said in a statement.
Eduardo Sierra, climate analyst at the Buenos Aires grain exchange, said because the planting of wheat was still in its early stages, the recent rains should not hurt the overall season too badly.
“There is a broad sowing window, so a producer who was planting can just stop and continue in a week, so the impact isn’t too bad,” Heinzenknecht added.
The country’s corn crop - already being harvested - would also be little harmed given its high tolerance to water.
Farmers have harvested 59% of the 2018/19 corn area, according to government data, which estimated the production of the cereal - which includes the grain that is not sold by farmers - at a record 56 million tonnes. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Adam Jourdan and Mitra Taj Editing by Susan Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)