By Maximilian Heath
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Argentina's soybean planting for the 2022/23 cycle is facing severe delays compared to last year, as the country endures a prolonged drought and expects only scant rainfall in the coming days, the Buenos Aires Grains exchange said on Thursday.
Argentina is the world's top exporter of processed soy, but the delays could mean some producers will not manage to meet their planting forecasts.
So far just 19.4% of the area has been planted, the exchange said in a weekly report, 19.9 percentage points behind this time last year.
Though this year's planting area is forecast at 16.7 million hectares (41.3 million acres) - slightly above last cycle's 16.3 million hectares (40.3 million acres), the drought has left very little moisture in the soil. Last cycle, farmers produced 43.3 million tonnes of soybean.
"The lack of surface moisture and the absence of a short-term rainfall forecast, will continue to limit planters' progress," the exchange said.
It also forecast that fields most in need of water, in the central eastern part of the country, would see less than 10mm (0.39 inch) of rainfall in the next seven days.
Corn planting is also facing delays, the exchange added. Until Wednesday, producers had planted 23.8% of the 7.3 million hectares expected for the 2022/23 crop, 6.2 percentage points behind this time last year.
The exchange said it is still analyzing the damage of late-season frosts to the 2022/23 wheat crop that struck lots in the south of the country's agricultural area over late October and early November. This could lead to another forecast cut.
The exchange projects Argentina's wheat production at 12.4 million tonnes this cycle, well below the 20.5 million tonnes it had projected in May, due to impacts of the drought and late-season frosts.
(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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