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BUENOS AIRES, July 29 (Reuters) - Soyoil and soymeal production in the world's top supplier Argentina may be slowed this season by flooding in the Pampas farm belt, official data showed on Friday, giving an unexpected boost to U.S. exports.
Argentine farmers have sold 31.2 million tonnes of soybeans so far this season versus 36.5 million at this point last year, according to data released by the agriculture ministry. It showed 4.02 million tonnes of soybeans were crushed in June, down 11 percent from June 2015.
Parts of the country's Pampas farm belt were lashed by record storms in the first three weeks of April. Initial floods have cleared up, but soils were left so moist that fields and unpaved roads have been swamped by normal showers since then.
"We had extremely bad weather, which caused an unusual delay of the soy harvest. That's an important reason why we haven't sold as much as we wanted," said Santiago del Solar, who farms thousands of hectares in bread-basket province Buenos Aires.
"On top of that, we are not able to transport and deliver (soybeans to port-side crushing plants) because of the awful condition of rural roads," del Solar said.
Argentina is the world's top supplier of soymeal livestock feed and soyoil, which is used in making biofuels. It is also the No. 3 exporter of soybeans and corn. The country's main competition in these markets comes from neighboring Brazil and the United States.
"For different reasons, the Argentine farmer is holding on to his soybeans," Soren Schroder, CEO of U.S.-based grains exporter Bunge told analysts on Thursday. "The result is that the pace of crush in Argentina for the balance of the year is likely to be lower than what we had initially expected,"
"That is one of the reasons why we are so optimistic about the U.S. export season again, picking up the slack," he said.
Argentine corn harvesting, also been delayed by flooding, is at 58.6 percent of planted area, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said in its weekly report on Thursday. Soy harvesting, which was finished last year by the beginning of July, was at 98.9 percent of planted area, the exchange said. (Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Bernard Orr)