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Argentina declares drought emergency

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez has declared an agricultural emergency in areas affected by the worst drought to hit the country in four decades.

The state of emergency will allow farmers in affected areas to defer some tax payments for one year, Fernandez said Jan. 26.

Argentina, a leading world producer of soy, corn, wheat and beef, is suffering from dry conditions in much of its agricultural belt. Crop estimates are being cut as cattle die of thirst.

Farmers, locked in political battle with the government over what they call high export taxes, say they want better long-term emergency planning rather than the subsidies and other short-term benefits offered by Fernandez.

The corn-planting season is just ending, but output in the current crop cycle could fall up to 40 per cent from the last harvest, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange has forecast.

The exchange on Friday cut its estimate for Argentina’s 2008/09 soy plantings to 17.9 million hectares (44.2 million acres) from 18.2 million hectares (45.0 million acres) previously, citing the drought.

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