Argentina launches relief fund for farmers hit by historic drought

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina will launch measures to help producers hit by a historic drought over its main agricultural region, Economy Minister Sergio Massa said , including a relief fund to tackle considerable losses to the country’s grains harvests.

The ministry will give producers access to a 5 billion pesos ($27 million) relief fund, Massa said after a meeting with the South American country’s main rural associations.

Argentina is the world’s leading exporter of soybean processed oil and meal, and the world’s No. 3 corn exporter, but the drought that began in May delayed farmers from planting their crops while grains exchanges slashed estimates.

Massa also announced other measures, such as the suspension of advance income tax payments for producers in areas hardest hit by the drought, smaller interest rates, and bigger subsidies.

Recent rains have brought needed relief to much of Argentina’s parched agricultural land, but the country’s wheat harvest ended at a little over half the previous cycle’s output.

“I know this is not necessarily everything they asked for,” Massa said in a statement. “It’s what we can do at this time.”

($1 = 186.9800 Argentine pesos)

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Sarah Morland and Chris Reese)

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