January 26, 2009

Rosario Board of Trade

TUESDAY, JANUARY 20—Catching up on an activity from last week:

Grain testing is just one of the services
by the Rosario Board of Trade.
On Tuesday, January 20, we were hosted by the Bolsa de Comercio de Rosario (The Rosario Board of Trade), which is responsible for agricultural/food testing as well as for managing commodities trading for much of Argentina.

First we toured the comprehensive testing laboratories. This is where all grain samples are tested as well as food products, biodiesel, soils, etc. After the tour, we were welcomed briefly by the Mayor of Rosario, after which we sat down for a series of presentations.

During the presentations, we learned a number of things:

- The Rosaro BOT trades 80% of the nation’s soybean production, 40% of the corn production, 30% of the wheat production and 20% of sunflowers.

The Mayor of Rosario (second from left) took time
from his schedule to welcome us
to his city and to the Board of Trade.
- Argentina will have a 5 percent biofuels mandate in place by 2010—including both biodiesel and ethanol in gasoline. They are also focused on becoming a major exporter of biofuels.

- Traditionally a corn exporter, Argentina is focusing on adding value to corn before it is exported (bioethanol and other products). Current corn customers include Spain, Portugal, Peru, Cile, Morocco, Malaysia and Egypt.

- Argentina is also the number one exporter and number three producer of soybean oil.

- Argentina currently has soybean crushing capacity of 160,000 tons per day.

- Argentina currently plants about 30 million hectares of land. There are another 13 million available with Class I to Class II soils—and another 15 million when adding Class IV soils.

- If you laid Argentina over North America, it would stretch from the middle of Canada down to the middle of Mexico. In other words, it covers a lot of latitude.

Juan Gear, executive director of MAIZAR, makes
a presentation during our visit to the Board of Trade.
A New Corn Group in Argentina Juan Gear is the executive director of a new (five years old) corn and sorghum growers association called MAIZAR. His group’s goal is to dramatically increase corn acres in Argentina from the current 4 million hectares to 10 million by 2017—with production increasing from 25 million metric tons to 80 million in that period. Considering that Argentina is already the world’s second largest corn exporter (the U.S. is first), it’s clear they are focused on becoming an even more important supplier, in spite of punitive export taxes levied by their federal government (currently 20% on corn exports).

A Closed Loop Dairy We also heard from Alejandro Moriena with Adecoagro, a startup company that is looking to build an integrated facility that includes milk production/dairy, grain production, electric generation and ethanol production. This “closed loop” concept has been explored in the U.S. as well, mostly as a means to increase the net energy balance of ethanol production. This company, however, sees milk production as the primary objective—and ethanol is simply a by-product of the process.

Don Elsbernd of Iowa and Dave Loos of Illinois also had the opportunity to repeat their presentations on the U.S. biodiesel and ethanol industries they had given in Brasilia.

Our takeaways from the four-hour meeting with the BOT:

- Argentina’s federal government is considerably less supportive of agriculture than Brazil’s.

Members of our group, along with representatives
of the Board of Trade, listen intently
to a presentation on Argentine agriculture.
- While ag producers in the U.S. may empathize or sympathize with the crushing tax structure on commodity exports in Argentina, they could become an even more formidable international competitor of those taxes are reduced or disappear altogether.

- The biofuels mandate provides an interesting take on the commodity export tax structure. Adding value to soybeans by converting them to biodiesel helps reduce/avoid the export taxes. Could this be part of the federal government’s plan to force producers to add value to commodities in-country, thus increasing jobs and income?

- There may be an opportunity to partner with Argentina in telling the story about world food and energy production.

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